Sunday, June 24, 2007

AFI's 10th Anniversary List Of The 100 Best Movies Ever Is Asstarded.

I'm sorry but 'Sixth Sense' is not the 89th greatest film ever made. It doesn't even merit rank on the list of the Top 89 Thousand Greatest Films Ever Made. 'Blazing Stewardesses' (1975) is a better movie than that manipulative piece of cineplex-friendly guilty parent-pablum. I hated every second of it and I wanted to blacken both of future DUI-perp Haley Joel Osment's squinty eyes throughout its 107 minutes of condescending predictability. 'Sixth Sense' is corporate Hollywood's idea of the 89th greatest film ever made but it's my idea of a really coke-fueled pitch given the green light because "I See Dead People" was said and all the George Lucas associates in the room freaked..."I See Dead People"...wait, that is a good pitch...fuck. It's still a trashy piece of shit and former New Kid On The Block Donnie Wahlberg gives the best performance in the thing. No. Wait. Hold on. Toni Collette was good.'s an alright movie but definitely not the 89th best one ever.

Go here to see what folks who know better than you or I judge to be the 100 greatest films ever made:

Number One is still 'Citizen Kane' and who can argue with that? No one loves it but it's been referenced so many thousands of times that everyone blindly accepts it as The Best Movie Ever. Mostly it's the best photographed/ballsiest movie ever. Gregg Toland's genius is biblical and Orson Welles had cojones of steel to even get the thing made. 'The Godfather' ranks number two but 'The Godfather II' is better and it comes in at 32. Who votes for these lists anyway? Nobody asked me.

'Casablanca' is number 3 but it should be number 1 forever and for all time because it's not only a classic but it's contemporary mythology: the line "the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world" has become my mantra...seriously...that line alone effortlessly sums up centuries of Zen teachings...

'Raging Bull' is number 4 and I suppose that's all mod and shit but Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver' is the better, less film-studenty movie. I guess DeNiro's monologue in the mirror earns its elevated slot. 'On The Waterfront' (#19) is far superior however.

'Singin' In The Rain' is number 5. That's fine by me. Gene Kelly is effortlessly hot and charming as fuck, and Debbie Reynolds ("Leg Up!") is a lil' firecracker. Jean Hagen's nasal performance is a hoot as well...I still think 'West Side Story' is the better movie if you want to talk 'film art', however.

'Gone With The Wind' comes in at number 6. I just watched this again and this movie is amazing: The logistics of filming the burning of Atlanta, the tricky politics, Vivien 'Gone With The Wind' transcends pulp. Passionate, prototypical American movie-making: The studio system at its very best.

'Lawrence Of Arabia' rates number 7. Pretty much any David Lean film could occupy this slot.Watching this on a plasma, flat-screen tv on New Year's Day after 8 Bloody Marys and a bunch of beers is seriously life-altering.

'Schindler's List': Number 8. I don't get it. I don't get it at all. This movie presents Oskar Schindler as an extra-terrestrial sent from the heavens to save a bunch of wide-eyed Elliots (Jews). No further comment. Spielberg's best effort was 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind' and it doesn't even rank on AFI's Top 100.

'Vertigo' (No. 9) Word. I prefer 'Rear Window' but 'Vertigo' is deep, dark Hitchcock .

'Wizard Of Oz' (10) It's an American fairy tale (literally) so I feel like it should rank higher but whatever.

As for the rest of the list:

'Nashville' (best movie ever) debuts at #59 and 'American Graffiti' shoots up 15 points but where's 'The Conversation'? 'Fargo' falls off the chart, and I'm very unclear as to why 'Forrest Gump' or 'Titanic' could even possibly be considered to be better movies than 'Fargo' but then what do I know?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shangri-La Revisited.

For me, Mary Weiss is the true voice of real-live, honest-to-god street level chick rock. Forty years ago she more or less fronted the The Shangri-Las, the girl-group who scored a number one hit with "Leader Of The Pack", a song so entangled in camp and so tattooed on our collective American consciousness that many of us can't remember if it began life as a Coke commercial, a showtune, a Bette Midler bathhouse anthem or what the fuck. If it was written as a jokey mini-opera, Mary Weiss didn't get the memo. She's the real deal from Queens. She hasn't recorded in something like forty years (although rumor has it that she sang back-up for Aerosmith in the 70's) but her new cd 'Dangerous Game' picks up right where The Shangri-La's left off. The intervening years haven't done much damage...but then again she always had one of those preternatural old-soul voices anyway. Her phrasing is truly uncanny: Queensborough streetcorner blue-eyed bad-babysitter soul. No one can touch the way she pines like a girl who could either cut you or fuck you, she hasn't decided yet. 'Dangerous Game''s production feels neither gimmicky nor condescending. Her back-up band, Reigning Sound, is a raw-boned garage band who sound like The Ramones if The Ramones knew how to play instruments and could afford a Farfisa organ.

'Dangerous Game' is party music for pie-eyed grownups who know their way around a jukebox. Check her out:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Not Sick Of Amy Winehouse Quite Yet.

Many of us are suffering Winehouse fatigue because a) "Rehab", the worst track off of 'Back To Black', is the first single to be released Stateside. WHY? Why not "Tears Dry On Their Own" or "Me And Mr. Jones"?

"Rehab" is essentially a Dr. Demento variety novelty song that wore out its welcome three months ago and is only now scaling the Billboard charts!

b) It's cool to bitch about how over Amy Winehouse we all are because misunderstood 17 year old MySpace lonelyhearts are just now adopting her as their avatar.

c) Misunderstood 17 year old MySpace lonelyhearts are just now adopting her as their avatar because Rolling Stone put her on the cover of their most recent issue, and, even though nobody at all reads Rolling Stone anymore, Rolling Stone is reliably four or five months behind any given trend, thus the publication is strangely in synch with the learning curve of misunderstood 17 year old MySpace lonelyhearts hailing from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin or thereabouts.

But...I just got a hold of Amy Winehouse's 2003 release 'Frank' and it's pretty great. A couple straightforward jazz standard covers ("(There Is) No Greater Love" & "Moody's Mood") and a barnstorming track rocking a nifty prohibition-era swing-band hook ("Help Yourself") are standouts on this brassy, gin-soaked, sailor-mouthed confessional that is Winehouse's debut. 'Frank' knocks it out of the park and it's worth seeking out.

Let the little girls n' gays have their 'Back To Black'. 'Frank' is The Shit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Queens Of The Stone Age: Not Your Big Brother's Cock Rock.

I've been a fan of Queens Of The Stone Age since 1998 when my prematurely geriatric Irish-Italian tattooiste', Sparky, put their classic self-titled first cd on repeat as he sleeved me @ Steve's Tattoo in Madison, Wisconsin. Four hours is a long time to be exposed to 11 songs that on the average clock in at four and a half minutes, and what I noticed about the band as I lay prone in Sparky's chair, oozing ozone and endorphines, is that for all the crunchy chords & swagger, here is a metal band that pretty much caters to a sensibility that falls somewhere around 5 or 6 on the Kinsey Scale. I wasn't exactly sure why, maybe it's the final track ('I Was A Teenage Hand Model') or maybe it's all the keening dude-falsetto that frontman/frat-stud Josh Homme manages so effortlessly...Homme (built like a surfer and sporting a tufty $50+ haircut) must get lots and lots of Trimme...but I definitely don't hate myself for loving them. Also I think their variety of horny glambastic stomp fills a hole, now more than ever. Modest Mouse is all John Prine-y, warbly, swaddled in flannel (yet they still manage to chart high), Interpol is plucked and shaved, aloof and vaguely gothish, privately educated and not afraid to remind us that they're fundamentally pricks, but The Queens are accessible fuck-happy, reasonably intelligent dipshits: Douchebag Lite for Burning Men and Womyn.

Here's a live version of my favorite track off of 'Era Vulgaris': "Turnin' On The Screw".

Monday, June 04, 2007

No One Will Ever Describe Me As "Mathy" or "Deadsy" Or Even "High"...But I'm Definitely 420 - Friendly.

Bands (and people) I loathe and despise most upon first exposure usually work on my heart and mind to such a degree that within a year or so I come around and wonder why I was such a twat regarding this person or that band in the first place. Sometimes it takes longer...King Crimson only recently wore me down to a resigned acceptance/anemic love (sort of) and that was after twenty-odd years of nodding politely at the inevitable funkless, REI-clad, rock-climbing fuckwit who, stoned to the beejesus, would thoughtlessly snuff my buzz by extracting 'In The Court Of The Crimson King' from his Hampshire College approved collection of freedom-rock to treat all of us lucky, lucky party people to 'Moonchild' as if none of us had ever heard it before. Alright, so 'Moonchild' is just fine now but that's only because my testicles have dropped and I've mellowed some. Ah well, It's my karmic burden to have embraced whole-heartedly all that I've slandered throughout my undergrad years (prog rock, lesbians, ostentatious bongs...I've lived with and slept with manymanymanymany maintenance stoners, one was a lesbian). Sometimes I never come around at all. For example, I will always loathe Emerson, Lake & Palmer, (even though I know Greg Lake's son...rock-star spawnage are a whole other blogtopic altogether...).

So, there's these two bands currently hyped by as being "mathy" (Battles) and as sounding "claustrophobic, almost sickly" (Black Moth Super Rainbow). And, being the kind of person who is helplessly drawn to foul smells, briney foods, and totally unavailable people, I decided to spend a half an hour floating in my nervous-suffering free space, listening to freshly downloaded Battles & Black Moth Super Rainbow. Having done all of that (not an easy task) I have but one question:

What kind of asshole pays for (not to mention sits around and listens to) mathy, claustrophobic, almost sickly music?

I really just don't get it.

Maybe there's some fun to be had watching this video but I didn't have any. Try, just try, to get loose to Battles' 'Atlas':

And then there's this mewling nonsense:

...starts off promising with that sun-dappled guitar line/funky drummer intro but then it goes straight to hell.

I predict Battles and Black Moth Super Rainbow will be two of my bigbig faves of '08...after all the kids have moved on to bigger and better things because that's just the kind of jive-ass, mutable, integrity-free suckerchump I am.