Archive for August, 2009

Some films that you should see…

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Here are some films you should Netflix, rent, buy, or simply see.

A write up for these films will be completed soon.

Before Night Falls (2000)

before-night-falls1

Half Nelson (2006)

half_nelson

The Assination of Richard Nixon (2004)

assassination_of_richard_nixon_ver2

and Roger Dodger (2002)

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enjoy.

Irrational Nostalgia

Monday, August 17th, 2009

This long-standing debate has taken place in many arenas: bars, cars, dugouts, gutters, rivers, as well as academic forums involving responsible, sober adults. The debate centers around the question “is contemporary popular art (art for the masses, “commercial” art) better today, or in previous decades?” This question specifically refers to the baby-boomers generation in which American culture took significant strides following the war. After many repetitions of slurred debate, I’ve finally decided to research this argument.

Now, while this term “better” is subjective, the research does prove that, in both music and film, what was mainstream then is undoubtedly “better” to what is mainstream today. This isn’t to say that I have some odd form of nostalgia for a time that I’ve never lived in. I like the era that I live in. My problem is with the fact that knowledge of good, respectable contemporary pop-art is now more of a status symbol for faux intellectuals than a means of unity for the masses.

Furthermore, I’m not stating that there was a time that the greatest talent in the world was able to rush to the airwaves as fast as it could unimpeded.  I’m concluding that in the past, the industry seemed as though it was genuinely looking for the “best product” to sell.   Though, to be fair, race unfortunately served as a roadblock for many minority artists.  Even still, the producers and labels, the “industry,” searched and developed the “best product,” not the easily controlled, most marketable product which is the case today.

I believe the evidence that there was an artistic conscience in the main offices is well illustrated in biographies and documentaries such as Robert Evans’ The Kid Stays in the Picture and Tom Dowd and the Language of Music to name a few.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/kid_stays_in_the_picture/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Evans_(film_producer)

http://www.thelanguageofmusic.com/

The stories about how these men worked hard to get some of the most influential works created is pretty inspiring. I know I’m looking at what some may say is historical revisionism and that we can’t account for what “experts” will look back on three or four decades from now to declare what is “classic” and what is not. Also, I am aware that there will obviously be a market for shitty, schlocky movies and music. That will never go away.

I don’t mean to go overboard with romanticism, but there was once a time when some of the era’s best work was also topping billboard charts and grossing the highest totals at the box office. Great “pop-art” (art for mass consumption)- great films and music are still produced today, they just aren’t grabbing a hold of the public eye / consciousness like it once had. Thus limiting and confining this “artistic” or dissident-identity or “voice.”

In film, 1967-1980 gave us the rise of filmmakers like: Kubrick, Mike Nichols, Robert Altman, Coppola, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Scorsese (others would include Spielberg and George Lucas in there, I wouldn’t) as well as the best run of performances by Nicholson, Hoffman, DeNiro, Pacino, Redford and Newman.

The films made by these actors and directors are regarded as part of the American canon of cinema. They were not only masterful films; they were blockbusters. This is an era where the films that were known and respected, were also top earners:

‘67- The Graduate #2 and Bonnie and Clyde #4 highest earnings
‘68- 2001: Space Odyssey #2 and Rosemary’s Baby #7
‘69- Butch Cassidy, Midnight Cowboy, and Easy Rider were 3 of the top 4 grossers
‘70- Catch-22 #10 and Five Easy Pieces #14
‘71- Clockwork Orange, 7th highest earner
‘72- Godfather, #1 top earner
‘73- The Sting #2 and Serpico #12
‘74- Godfather Part 2, #6
‘75- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest #2 and Dog Day Afternoon #5
‘76- All the President’s Men #5, Network #17, Taxi Driver #19
‘77- Annie Hall #12
‘78- Deer Hunter #11
‘79- Kramer vs. Kramer #1 and Apocalypse Now #6

That’s an average of fifth highest earner, meaning the “best” film (relative term, I’m aware- how about “films that are taught today in film studies”) of each year within this time-line ranked as the fifth highest earner. If I average all findings, the result is 12th highest earner.

My generation, those born 1980-1988 have seen the rise of Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Coen Bros, Soderberg, Sam Mendes, Tarantino, David Fincher, Clooney, David O. Russel, and if only Aronofsky could make some more films- others might include Wes Anderson, Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Ridley Scott, M. Night– but i wouldn’t.

Many of the critically acclaimed films by these contemporary directors don’t do well because of marketing, distribution, screenings, financing, humans are just dumber, or just cause that’s the “way things are.”
For instance here’s some lists from recent years of films that I believe are “great films” that could (emphasis on could) remain highly regarded 40 years from now:

remember, the numbers equal how much these films grossed compared to all other releases of the same year.

‘07 – No Country for Old Men #36, There Will Be Blood #66
‘05 – Good Night, and Good Luck #87
‘04 – Sideways #40, Eternal Sunshine #81, Closer #82, Life Aquatic #97 (for those wes anderson fans), Huckabees #133
‘03 – Kill Bill v.1 #40, Lost in Translation #67, 21 Grams #118,
‘02 – Road to Perdition #24, The Pianist #80, Frida (which gave way to the re-emergence of the bullshit bio-pic) #95, Adaptation #102, Bowling for Columbine #104, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE #113 (crazy)
‘01 – Royal Tenenbaums #48, In the Bedroom #68, Monster’s Ball #76

That’s an average of 63rd if I take the highest ranking of each year, or a 78 if you average them all out.
source – http://www.boxofficereport.com/database/1975.shtml
If you’re an action fan or a believer in the PG-13 family films, I’m sorry, they weren’t included on my 70s list, so I didn’t feel the need to include them in my contemporary list.

For the music records of what was popular, I went to Billboard records and got the “Hot 100″ of each of the following years and then picked out some respectable tracks.

1965-
03. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction » Rolling Stones
15. Shotgun » Jr. Walker & The All Stars
29. Eve Of Destruction » Barry McGuire (pretty forced and over the top but oh well)
33. Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag » James Brown & The Famous Flames
41. Like A Rolling Stone » Bob Dylan
78. The Tracks Of My Tears » Miracles

1966-
16. We Can Work It Out » Beatles
21. Paint It Black » Rolling Stones
26. Sunshine Superman » Donovan
27. Sunny » Bobby Hebb
28. Paperback Writer » Beatles
37. Cool Jerk » The Capitols
48. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg » Temptations
63. 19th Nervous Breakdown » Rolling Stones
82. Rainy Day Women #12 And 35 » Bob Dylan
98. Zorba The Greek » Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

1967-
13. Respect » Aretha Franklin
17. Sweet Soul Music » Arthur Conley
24. Ruby Tuesday » Rolling Stones
27. For What It’s Worth » Buffalo Springfield
30. All You Need Is Love » Beatles
41. Reflections » Diana Ross & The Supremes
68. Gimme Some Lovin’ » Spencer Davis Group
70. Let’s Live For Today » Grass Roots
72. Groovin’ » Booker T & The MG’s
77. Cold Sweat » James Brown & The Famous Flames
81. White Rabbit » Jefferson Airplane

1968-
01. Hey Jude » Beatles
06. Sunshine Of Your Love » Cream
19. Midnight Confessions » Grass Roots
20. Dance To The Music » Sly & The Family Stone
21. The Horse » Cliff Nobles & Co.
47. Green Tambourine » Lemon Pipers
50. Jumpin’ Jack Flash » Rolling Stones
58. I Got The Feelin’ » James Brown & The Famous Flames
78. Revolution » Beatles
82. You’re All I Need To Get By » Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
87. Time Has Come Today » Chambers Brothers
90. Say It Loud I’m Black And I’m Proud » James Brown & The Famous Flames
91. The Mighty Quinn » Manfred Mann
94. Think » Aretha Franklin
97. Suzie Q. » Creedence Clearwater Revival

1969-
02. Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In » Fifth Dimension
03. I Can’t Get Next To You » Temptations
04. Honky Tonk Women » Rolling Stones
05. Everyday People » Sly & The Family Stone
11. One » Three Dog Night
21. It’s Your Thing » Isley Brothers
25. Get Back » Beatles
27. Spinning Wheel » Blood, Sweat & Tears
31. Green River » Creedence Clearwater Revival
47. Do Your Thing » Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
57. Run Away Child, Running Wild » Temptations
68. Mother Popcorn (Part I) » James Brown
85. Come Together » Beatles

1970-
05. War » Edwin Starr
08. Get Ready » Rare Earth
09. Let It Be » Beatles
20. Spill The Wine » Eric Burdon & War
22. Spirit In The Sky » Norman Greenbaum
24. Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today) » Temptations
34. Instant Karma (We All Shine On) » John Ono Lennon
57. Express Yourself » Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
73. Up Around The Bend / Run Through The Jungle » Creedence Clearwater Revival
98. The Thrill Is Gone » B.B. King

1971-
09. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) » Temptations
21. What’s Going On » Marvin Gaye
23. Ain’t No Sunshine » Bill Withers
62. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) » Marvin Gaye
66. I Just Want To Celebrate » Rare Earth
77. Groove Me » King Floyd
84. Won’t Get Fooled Again » Who
89. Theme From “Shaft” » Isaac Hayes
94. Love Her Madly » Doors
95. Here Comes The Sun » Richie Havens
99. Riders On The Storm » Doors

source: http://longboredsurfer.com/charts.php?year=1968

Later years provided “Slippin into Darkness” by WAR, “Papa was a Rollin Stone” by the Temptations, and other pinnacles of funk, as well as tracks from Pink Floyd… and then the industry fell victim to disco. Anyhow, these aren’t tracks that I was duped into liking because they were featured on a commercial for Huggies diapers, Toyota trucks, or some soft drink. These are good songs. Many are great songs, and most are on my iTunes.

Again, the point is even larger, if the above list is what was making the charts, how good was the stuff not (emphasis on not) making them? The tracks that were not so radio-friendly from the above artists are surely “better” or “truer” songs, right? Possibly. Or, even reflecting on the bands touring around, playing college campuses, and fusing all the soul flying around that time, how good were they?

Now, I went and skimmed through ‘99-’06’s charts and absolutely know I can’t find more than 2-3 per year that are worth a damn. 2005’s “Gold Digger” would probably make the cut though.

I am curious to know how this lifestyle was like? I’m trying to figure out what a day would be like if instead of overhearing “to the window…… to the wall…. (something something) make these bitches crawl, till the sweat drips off my balls,” I heard:

People moving out, people moving in. Why? Because of the color of their skin.
Run, run, run but you sure can’t hide.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me and I’ll set you free. Rap on, brother, rap on.
Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the…preacher.
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the…teacher.
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation.
Ball of confusion. Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today.
#24 – 1970

Or instead of overhearing people talk about how “awesome Transformers was” or how “cool the dancing was in You Got Served,” a random passerby could tell me what they thought of Five Easy Pieces.

Currently, great music and films are being made. Unfortunately, a smaller proportion of Americans are supporting and consuming them. Today, films and music worth talking about are more of a status symbol for the minority of Americans who enjoy digging through the megatons of schlocky, corporate, bullshit we are exposed to weekend after weekend at the theatres and Tuesday after Tuesday at the record stores to find projects of worth.

I love the “now/present.” However, I’m curious about a time when the majority of movie goers were actually watching highly respected films. What would it be like if the townie seated at the bar next to you recently saw In the Loop or Cold Souls (two interesting films that are currently out).

But that is a fantasy. In 2007, 65 more films had a higher gross than There Will Be Blood. 65 more films lured more people into the theatre than a film that is unanimously regarded as “one of the three best films of the year.” I’m aware that There Will Be Blood is a film that was hard to market, but compare that to past films that also had marketing issues- Deer Hunter and Taxi Driver.

Maybe it’s better this way. Harboring disdain for Clear Channel radio and laughing at the ridiculousness after a first-time viewing of a trailer for the upcoming gimmick flick… only to find yourself wanting to murder all televisions after enduring the same trailer over 60 times in a two week time span. Then, after running into your neighbor by his car, a conversation flares up. You try to be polite with your neighbor, who is “fucking hyped” to see the advertised ad-nauseam blockbuster based off of a stale template that used to be reserved for the “cheaper” medium- television. You willingly mask your contempt with a nod and a smile. The feigned smile lasts until the neighbor’s car stereo starts and you’re unwillingly exposed to a cheap synthesizer, bass overdrive, and some voices yelling “To the window! To the Wall! Till the sweat drips off my balls…”

Then suddenly, God (the internet) reminds you that Man Man is coming to town and that Alamo Drafthouse will be hosting a special screening of Mean Streets this weekend.

-original December 2008, revised August 2009.

death panel!

Friday, August 14th, 2009

I just applied for a “decider” position on the newly-formed, yet fictitious Health Care “Death Panel.”

My first order of business is to help out my friends and not allow any of their “mistakes” come into the world.  This is actually doing more of a service to the world than to my isolated social circle.  You’re welcome America.