Currently viewing the tag: "saturday six"

600full-joe-strummer6) Townes Van Zandt, Be Here to Love Me

Before I watched this thing, I knew “Pancho and Lefty” and Justin Townes Earle’s namesake, and that was about it. But this sad, sad, documentary that is a country song in itself went so well with my last Nashville adventure. S.T. and I perched in R.B.’s disaster of a music nerd bachelor apartment and sunk into the life of Townes.

The most memorable part, besides the quiet, woeful songs? Van Zandt’s son talking about how he learned his dad was dead. Switching across the stations one night, the son heard one of his dad’s song, which was rare. Then he heard another one and thought, oh, a two-fer, great. A third song followed and he knew something awful had happened.

Before S.T. and I watched this, and before we saw Old Crow Medicine Show that night for a WSM radio show, we had paid tribute to Townes by having a beer at The Gold Rush. There is a picture of the man himself above one of the bars. When S.T. and I went to take a photo, the middle-afged bartender began telling us perfect, tragic stories about how shit-faced Townes used to stagger home from the place. Sometimes he would leave his lyrics-covered napkins behind, and the bartenders would keep them for him. By telling us these raw, real tales of sorrow, the bartender managed to simultaneously puncture the unserious fun time impression of the country-drunk and enhance it one hundred-fold. All in all, it was a very Nashville moment.

Favorite Townes Van Zandt song (besides the one I put in Friday Afternoon links below):

Oh, and here’s the whole documentary on Youtube!

5) Tommy Jarrell, Sprout Wings and Fly

A group of us has rented a little house in Nashville — by us, I mean the collection of oddballs I met from internet Old Crow Medicine Show fandom, all of whom are at least 15 years older than I am — to see the group at the Ryman for the switch from 2010 to 2011. There was moonshine, black-eyed peas, collard greens, Prince’s Hot Chicken, and S.T. and J.K. busking their hearts out on the corners and side-streets off of Broadway. And when S.T. and J.K. practice their fiddle and guitar, it gets serious — even religious. During their practice at our (for the moment) little house, the DVD of Les Blank’s Sprout Wings and Fly was brought out. “Tommy” they called Jarrell. In their reverence, he needs no other name. I didn’t display my ignorance, but watched and tried to learn the appropriate lessons and display my old time piety.

Jarrell was an old school Appalachian fiddler, absolutely from another universe, even while Blank filmed him at the end of his life in the 1980s. It’s just one of those perfect folk moments in amber that makes one wish to be named Lomax. S.T. told me later that the story goes that Jarrell’s musician father learned “Poor Ellen Smith” from Peter Degraf himself as he sat in jail for the poor woman’s murder. That story is so America, that I hope never to confirm whether it is true or not.

Favorite Tommy Jarrell song:

Here’s the trailer for the documentary:

4) The Clash, Westway to the World

I don’t remember the first time I watched Westway to the World, but my 15th and 16th years saw the DVD nearly worn to splinters. It’s just the Clash talking, with archival footage. Headon is withered and still on heroin, Jones is all teeth and a bit of smarm, Simonon is still handsome and cheeky, and Strummer seems sweet, and sad, and regretful about his key part in fucking up the completely magical foursome had had going.

Favorite Clash song:

And the documentary:

3) Joe StrummerLet’s Rock Again!

Oh,  Let’s Rock Again! I waited breathlessly to watch, sobbed my eyes out when Strummer is passing out flyers to his own gig, or sitting on the sidewalk chatting with teens, or being hugged by hysterically joyful Japanese fans, and then I could never watch it again. The Clash I missed by miles, but if congenital heart defects and my lack of prodigious coolness hadn’t gotten in the way, I could have seen the Mescaleros, dammit. I missed it. I fucked up. I was late. But the whole documentary just makes you love Strummer’s humanity and his earnest, human optimism. (Which, knowing how he turned out, makes asshole, must be a punker, 1976 Strummer even more adorable.)

Favorite Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros song:

And the clip where Joe passes out flyers to his own show — contrived or not, I want to hug him real bad. Strummer was the most huggable of all the old punk rockers.

2) Simon and Garfunkel, Songs of America and The Concert in Central Park

The latter, a 1981 concert that made 12-year-old me infuriated that I had even missed that pale imitation of a folk reunion by six years of life — making the ’60s I yearned to visit seem farther away still. The former, though officially packaged with a shiny new version of Bridge Over Troubled Water a few years back, came to my eager hands as a grainy VHS from an internet friend (I “met” her in an MSN Paul Simon fans group. She also sent me a burned CD of a bootleg of the once-rare The Paul Simon Songbook). That tape was painfully wonderful — finally a glimpse of the duo at their peak, the thing I missed. The thing itself is pretty low-key, sometimes it lags, but there are some good concert scenes, and a particularly wonderful Simon and Garfunkel warming up bit.

Favorite Simon and Garfunkel song:

And Songs of America! (You God damned kids have no idea what it was like pre-Youtube. The dial-up days were dark indeed.)

And the Central Park one as well!

(I finally saw Simon and Garfunkel in 2004, though for most of my childhood I assumed it was impossible. I heard “The Only Living Boy in New York” and “Suspect Device” that year. Seventeen was a good musical year.)

1) Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense

This, for the distinctive memory of my father rushing home from work one day, piece of mail in hand, and how he popped in his brand new VHS of the flawless Talking Heads doing their thing. He and mom were actually there for one of the nights the concert was made from. Though they were a very New York City band, my parents in LA in 1984 watching David Byrne in his great big suit, dancing with a lamp, makes them seem very California, and very familiar in a way — as if they helped raise me. And the concert is as wonderful as everyone says — its slow build from David Byrne playing “Psycho Killer” all alone to the full, wild stage and incomprehensible energy. It’s perfect, and it’s strange, and it’s my parents being cool and before my time.

Favorite Talking Heads song:

And —

— David Byrne and that lamp.

Maybe I just want to hang out with her and Tavi Gevinson. Is that so wrong? Is it?

Maybe I just want to hang out with her and Tavi Gevinson. Is that so wrong? Is it?

6) Hats, specifically fedoras, are not some signal that the wearer is a mouth-breathing creeper (creepertarian is some circles) whom you can instantly dismiss. You’re thinking of trillbys. And honestly, shut up about both. Fashion — especially the male variety — is dull enough already without all of your judgement, people.

(Let’s bring suspenders back, though. I’m on that, but nobody else seems to be.)

5) Taylor Swift, whom I enjoy in small doses on occasion, is not particularly anti-feminist. Some critiques are fair, like the point I saw somewhere that Swift is the beautiful, rich insider who has a bad habit of playing the aggrieved ugly duckling even now,  but some (looking at you, Jezebel, back when you thought Lady Gaga was your new artistic God), are way too prude-shaming, romantic-shaming, in my day we smoked clove cigarettes and used boys before they used us and we never, ever fawned ever bullshit. Other people are different, Jezebel. Nobody knows how contrived Taylor Swift is as compared to any other famous woman, but some people are less comfortable with meat dresses or leotards than others.

(I also dig this New York Magazine piece that notes that Swift is a woman, but she’s making 12-year -old girls fawn all over her the way they usually do over boys/non-threatening men. That’s cool. She’s the musician on stage. And since the majority of those girls will grow up to be heterosexual, they maybe want to be her, not dream of dating or marrying her. That’s not bad at all.)

All I ask is for folks to stop using the lyrics to “Fifteen” as proof that Swift is a big old slut-shamer. When she sings “Abigail gave everything she had/to a boy who changed his mind” she may or may not be talking about sex, but she is certainly also talking about feelings and emotions and such. The song also includes the lyrics “I swore someday I was going to marry him/but I realized some bigger dreams of mine” and “In your life, you’ll realize bigger dreams than/dating the boy on the football team/I didn’t know it at 15.” Again, not bad at all. Stop willfully missing the point, snob-feminists. The net lady power gain of Swift is debatable, but that song is not the sign of her and society’s creeping conservatism the way every blog decided it was circa 2010.

Also, at least half of you are lying when you claim never to have felt even a twinge of the sentiments expressed in “You Belong With Me.” Lying.

Try to ignore this photo, though.

Try to ignore this photo, though.

4) Guy Fieri is not that bad. Okay, maybe I don’t like him exactly, but there’s something totally non-threatening about his brand of douche-bro, at least within the context of his Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. His propensity for wearing his sunglasses both on the back of his head and upside down is upsetting. His hair is ridiculous, as is his mall-trash-rockabilly thing. But dammit, the show is glorious, glorious, greasy diner porn, with travel porn mixed in. And Fieri is just sort of genial about it all. He seems to know he has an enviable job. He talks, but not incessantly. He makes the experience about him to some extent, but more about him enjoying the food. And he knows where to go. Every restaurant I have been to that had his picture on the wall was amazing. (Nashville staples Prince’s Hot Chicken, and Bros, as well as the original Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh).  Just, calm down about Guy Fieri, America. I don’t think he means us any harm.

(I wish he wouldn’t refer to his show as “triple d,” on the other hand. That’s a little nails on the chalkboard.)

3) Neither is Zooey Deschanel the devil. First of all, stop calling every character a manic pixie dream girl, especially “Summer.” Deschanel is doomed to be that, and it’s partially her fault for embracing a certain type of wide-eyed, childish, vintage-clad, sparkle and cupcake-loving character But she’s more than that, by virtue of being an actual breathing human.  And like Taylor Swift, I can’t speak to what aspects of her personality are “real” and which are contrived. But the assumption that no female wants to wear vintage clothing (I do) or be obsessed with cute little cakes (okay, not so much) unless they’re “trying too hard” is tiresome.

And the entire point of 500 Days of Summer, a decent movie, is that it stars an unreliable narrator. That is made abundantly clear to audiences, that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character has romanticized the relationship and is constantly projecting things onto Deschanel’s character that are not there. And yet, this movie, which arguably subverted the quirky woman exists for your growing and learning experience, man-boy! trope even before Ruby Sparks did, is tossed into the pile along with much less thoughtful versions of the trope. And Deschanel herself seems pretty solid, especially when she says bad-ass things like ” I want to be a fucking feminist and wear a fucking Peter Pan collar. So fucking what?”  You go, girl.

Also, there are a few decent She and Him songs. And New Girl is sometimes funny.

2) Leave Girls alone, but stop talking about it. Girls is a decent show. It is not nearly as bad or as amazing as people have suggested. It is occasionally funny or poignant, if slow-moving. The self-centered quality of the characters is moderately interesting, especially since they’re females and that is more rare, letting them be this unpleasant. Lena Dunham’s body and her awkward sex scenes are kind of interesting and were a sort of bold idea. (And people being complete assholes about her body kind of proves her point, by the way. So ha.) Everything about the show is pretty okay, if not ever super thrilling or lovable. Now let’s never speak of it or its deeper meanings ever again.

Look at these fucking hipsters.

Look at these fucking hipsters.

1) Stop calling everything hipster. It once meant something (like the death of the western world, am I right, Adbusters?!) 1950s and cool. It may have meant something recently (circa 2004, it was the high school students I knew who wore ugly clothes and listened to Mates of State and said things about vinyl that should have been a cliche to any self-aware 17-year-old). It means nothing except “thing I don’t like” now. And those of us who have ever been accused of being one I am sure have our reasons for being annoyed by the slur. I like vintage clothing and old shit of all kinds, so I am under suspicion. And my love of folk, old time, and country is more suspect than it was in 2008. (That’s the trade-off for having a lot more bands to enjoy. I will take it.)

Back in 2009, I dragged my skeptical mother to an Old Crow Medicine Show concert. She had heard some of the band’s earlier music, the sort that sounds bizarrely close to 80-year-old string or jugband music, and thought it was too derivative. Something about it couldn’t be taken seriously. But then she saw them live, chock full of runaway train, punk energy, and her mind was changed. Bandleader Ketch Secor is clearly putting on a show, both in interviews and at concerts. But he clearly has this fondness and fascination with the past performers that translates into a theatrical, but honestly sincere way of writing songs and speaking about music. He knows it’s all a show, but you can’t tell me he doesn’t love this old music to which he’s devoted his life. Nor can you tell me he did that just because it was going to make a killer Oxford American story someday.

While dancing to Pokey LaFarge a few months ago, I noticed the band’s dapper outfits, their ’20s style of music. Is this hipster? I wondered. Indeed, what the hell is that word, except an accusation that someone’s appreciation isn’t sincere? That it is instead a competition for most strange or obscure interest? Is wanting to buy quirky old shit on ebay hipster? Does it matter if my love of old objects — even, say, a hilarious old ad — is not condescending towards the foolishness of days gone by, but based on a breathless thrill that comes from trying to believe in a time for which I wasn’t around? Mom heard the jugband-influenced Old Crow as sort of jokey. I heard it as delightfully alien, and real, and holy shit, once this was what people heard on the radio and played in their kitchens. Ears hear differently.

You don’t know other people’s hearts and minds. So stop crying hipster-wolf and unless there’s proof of otherwise, assume that people love what they love — because they were going to love something — and this is what they picked.

165341)  Cigarette Smoking Man (The X-Files)

Strangely calm — maybe it was the Canadian accent — and occasionally vulnerable (seemingly) in later seasons, there was something compelling about this guy. We seem him as the top villain for Mulder, but then we see that he is just a part of the much bigger conspiracy. He’s the guy they go to for clean-up and it has cost him a normal human existence. His centric episodes are never dull. (Always wondered why he didn’t just take out Mulder, though.) He smokes not like a villain trying to intimidate someone, but like a man with all the time in the world, who isn’t even thinking about any of it.

2) Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Iconic, duh. Think of him in the first movie when he’s the terrifying cyborg, but is beneath Grand Moff Tarkin. And he has that strange commitment to this mysterious religion. We learn more about him. He blows up a whole planet. He can choke people with his hand. He is willing to get into a TIE Fighter and fight — albeit, not very well. And though people usually mock Mark Hamill’s acting when he discovers the terrifying truth about his parentage, well, think how you would feel. Look at Luke Skywalker’s reaction and realize, it’s serious, horrifying stuff to be the son of this man.

3) The Joker (The Dark Knight)

The late Heath Ledger really did deserve those accolades, regardless of their inevitability after his tragic death. Ledger plays the Joker in a transformative, uncomfortable, annoying (those fucking sounds he makes, aaaugh!) disturbing way. It’s such good acting that it’s fun to watch. He’s the best part of the movie, and is on my short list of highly praised things that are not remotely overrated. The greater meaning of the anarchic character isn’t important. Just fucking watch him act.

4) Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones TV show)

Not the sadistic King Joffrey? Not the real power, Tywin Lannister? Nope. Give me Cersei, because we see her struggling to be a villain. She’s a woman, she’s maybe not as smart as she thinks she is, but she’s wily enough to fight hard for what she thinks is hers. She’s funny as hell. And she loves her scary-ass son, because he is just about all she has, but she knows he’s sick. She knows how women gain power, but she still yearns to be playing at the big kids table. You see her when her villainous swagger is on, and you see her being completely dismissed by her father and intellectually trailing behind her brother. She’s fascinating. And she has the world’s most flawless bitch face.

5) O’Brien (1984) and The Operative (Serenity)

Like all good top villains in a dystopia, O’Brien knows all the counter-arguments with which our hero has struggled. He knows them all and can beat them with authority, charm, conviction, and the terrifying certainty of his position. He inflicts the pain, and he is someone to whom Winston Smith can finally speak freely. He knows what he does and he does it because power exists to keep itself alive. No grand motives. Just keeping the system going.

The Operative sees even more clearly than O’Brien does that he does terrible things. But he thinks he is doing them to build something better. Yet, he also thinks there is no place in that world for people like him with so much innocent blood on their hands. He’s the mechanism for improvement at a terrible price, but he has no illusions about being warmly invited into into the new society. Strange character. Very human for a villain, but very frightening.

6) Angelus (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

God damn was he a better monster than a hero. Bland, self-hating (understandable, but still), earnest, when he had a soul, he was playfully sadistic without one. He tortured a woman into insanity, he toyed with a lovesick Giles (best character) after killing his ladyfriend. The contrast between that guy and the guy trying to do right makes even the dull fellow more interesting, just because we know what nastiness is inside of him.

What are some of your favorites, dear readers?

4657776_l21) TitanicOnce I would have said that James Cameron’s teen sensation blockbuster should be trimmed to a tight 45 minutes, but I am softening in my old age. Just trim every single piece of Cameron-penned dialogue. Remove scene-chewer Billy Zane entirely. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet can stay for the one lifeboat scene which demonstrates some acceptable eye acting. Kill all romance and implication that a making out couple distracted every single British sailor on deck watch right before they hit the burg. Edit out the tiresome Bill Paxton learns to love something more than mysterious lost diamonds subplot.

Oh hell, never mind. Just stick to the sinking. Pretend it’s the story of the myriad killer secondary characters and extras who make those scenes gut-wrenching. They are the reason I can’t fully advocate for tossing out Cameron’s film and going for A Night to Remember. The latter is much better overall, but Kenneth Moore is all too chipper as Second Officer Lightoller. It doesn’t hit the gut in the same way at all.

On a side note, someone British please, please, please make an epic miniseries about Lightoller. His life was one of those impossible adventure stories that you make a movie about if they happen once. His happened endlessly. The Titanic was just a fraction of a life that included an island shipwreck on a sailing ship, a diversion into nearly dying in the Klondike, and a late middle age moment of personally taking his beloved yacht across the channel to fetch 168 British troop badly in need of getting the fuck out of France before the Nazis caught them.

On a final side note, my two instances of what could loosely be described as fan fiction were about Charles Lightoller and  Titanic bandleader Wallace Hartley. I resented fanfiction.net for making me file them under the movie Titanic.

2) Straight to HellThere’s no way to edit a coherent plot into Alex Cox’s punk rock spaghetti Western parody, but editing out co-stars Dick Rude and Courtney Love and their method-whine acting would be a great start. Sy Richardson, some of the weird ’80s hotties Joe Strumer macks upon, Shane MacGowan, Elvis Costello, and director Jim Jarmusch in their bit parts can stay; definitely keep the off-kilter everything — like bad pacing that becomes funny — as well as the gory ending gun battle. But, just, trim off the annoying bits and focus more on sweaty, dusty Joe Strummer in a suit.

(Also, I find Jim Jarmusch, one of my hipster weaknesses if I must call it that, to be weirdly attractive. He can definitely stay. Also, the worst thing about his Coffee and Cigarettes is that he never got around to filming a vignette with Strummer!)

Turns out in 2010, Alex Cox released a new version of the movie, but they’ve only added five minutes of footage, some technical tinkering, and some CGI gore, so the above dream remains unfulfilled.

This is a terrible movie that I knew was terrible, even after searching Dormont’s (outside of Pittsburgh) Incredibly Strange Video for a VHS of it to rent (this is circa 2003). But either its humor holds up in spite of the no-plot plot, or sweaty Joe Strummer in a desert-covered suit is just that compelling.

3) The Towering Inferno: It’s been a while, but this movie was always completely dull for the first half hour. Cut to the fire — never mind the corruption and cost-cutting and bad villain — and cut out most everyone except Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. Sweaty Steve McQueen and Paul Newman are good for America.

I really want to share a sort of spoiler. Okay, are you ready? You have been warned — I used to say I knew this movie was awful because you could predict that at the end OJ Simpson would hand Fred Astaire a cat. But when I think about now, this movie is great because you can predict that at the end OJ Simpson will hand Fred Astaire a cat.

4) On the BeachThere’s no way to edit in even attempted Australian accents or radiation sickness, so let’s stick with just editing out the God-awful, over the top Ernest Gold score. Not so disturbing (or good) as the Nevil Shute novel on which it is based, this 1959 picture about the last remnants of humanity waiting to die after a worldwide nuclear war is still pretty damn bleak for its time. But whenever you start to feel that existential stomachache, the score aggressively demands your attention and heartbreak and sorrow, and then it’s all gone. Because it’s of course just a movie.

5) Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg: Maybe a pet peeve of mine, but I disliked this Swedish film’s choice of beginning with an attempt at a motivation for Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg’s beyond-heroic efforts in saving 100,000 Hungarian Jews. The movie has to show Wallenberg witnessing the bodies of Jews being thrown from a train in order to explain his decision to accept the diplomatic post in Budapest. Why? I seem to recall that Wallenberg met some Jews who had fled to Palestine in the 1930s, but crimes against humanity in the cinematic way wasn’t why he went to Budapest. The man was looking for some purpose in life and he found it. And he was really, really good at it. By all accounts, he got a certain rush out of some of his audacious actions — at least before the actual battle for Budapest began. The movie mostly focuses on those rough, later days, which is an interesting choice — his triumphs where he pulled people off of trains and saved them from death marches are seen briefly at the start — to spend the most amount of time with our hero when he’s reached his limit.

This is a good film, but I have never found its way of telling the story quite satisfying. You want your perfect Hollywood man, with an arc from would-be profiteer to savior? That’s what Oscar Schindler is for. Wallenberg was less obviously interesting, more of a cipher, but that makes him all the more a superhero. Superman versus Batman, maybe.

6) Signs: My dad forgives any old movie not filmed on a studio lot. I forgive any terrible ending when a movie has done such a kick-ass job building an atmosphere of subtle, claustrophobic terror. And aliens just speak to me in a, I am technically 15 years old but I cannot sleep right now, way. The part where Joaquin Phoenix is watching the news in the closet and it is supposedly home video from a Brazilian birthday party, and then you see the alien for a second — I have never before or since made an involuntary and loud noise of alarm in a theater. Also, Abigail Breslin is so great. The Culkin kid is Culkinish, but Breslin always strikes me as such a believable little girl.

The edits I would make? The ending — spoilers! — with the water. Maybe it’s a metaphor, maybe it’s fluoride or minerals or something beyond H2o, but people just couldn’t abide that aliens could be killed by a substance that covers 70-odd percent of the planet. And I get that. The whole everything was meant to be and leading up to saving the Culkin bit was so purposefully unsubtle that I never fully minded, because it seems like a picture of a different world than the one in which we all reside. But as much as I find this movie a net good, the fact is that it deserved something better. The set-up is funny, scary, well-acted, and eerie. The idea of a man who has lost his faith in God having to face (potentially-allegorical) extraterrestrials is terrific. I am not sure how I wanted Signs to end. But like many a Russell T. Davies-penned Dr. Who finale, the lead-up was so great that the ending had to be a disappointment — but it didn’t have to be quite that cheesy.

Have any of your own suggestions? Lay ’em on me in the comments or wherever you like.