Long time no post…

long time no write!

Well, the year is winding down.  Naoko and Zen have been in Japan since the 23rd of November and I was on my own until the 16th of December when mum ‘n’ dad came, great to see them again.  While I was alone I didn’t do much except work, hang around the house, play guitar, and use the computer.  I went to the Prince of Wales pub in little India three times (once to see the Dislaimers, once to take in the Sunday  beer/music afternoon deal, and once to play a little set of music myself – can’t talk too much about that, it didn’t really go very well).  I also went to Wala Wala to see The UnXpected play a great set.  They blew my mind by playing a fantastic version of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” they also did two songs I had requested: Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”, and one of Shirlyn’s songs “Shouldn’t We Try.”  In the last set, when I yelled out “Rock ‘n’ Roll” between songs, they jumped into a quick version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”  Talk about service!! The band had a different guitarist (Rene was sick?), and a keyboardist who also played bass sometimes when the regular bass player played guitar (such as on “The Trooper”).  Two of my office colleagues said that they would go there with me, but in the end they both flaked out so I went by myself.  I’m so glad that I did, the band was awesome – those colleagues really missed out.

I went back on the 20th and they did another great set, including another savage version of “Master of Puppets.”  Amazing.  But their bass player disappeared for the last set, so the band did without.  They had a keyboardist/violinist, that was nice.  They played totally different songs from the previous Saturday that I went, wow – what a versatile band!  They have a huge set of professional covers that they do, as well as Shirlyn Tan’s originals.

I worked until noon of the 24th, when we had a small office food/gift exchange gathering at noon, and then after that I went with a colleague for some beers.  In the evening I had a lovely dinner with mum ‘n’ dad.  That was the start of 11.5 days of nothing-to-do.  I’ve been catching up on reading, researching agents for my book, and I set up an author page on Publisher’s Marketplace to help me on my search.  I’ve also been back to The Prince of Wales backpacker’s pub to see another band, The London Fog.  These guys were really great.  They did a few covers (The Who, T. Rex, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley), but mostly covers.  Great harmonizing on “Retro Dancing Girl.”

I’ve also been listening to a lot of music and watching many movies:

Movie reviews:

DOWC
The Decline of Western Civilisation – Great documentary of the LA punk scene before anyone outside of LA cared about it. Fantastic shots of a very young pre-Rollins Black Flag when they had a ferocious latino Ron Reyes on vocals. The Circle Jerks have a long spot, and X get a nice introduction both through interviews with the band and also fantastic live photography. They must have had many cameras at these shows because the video capture of the bands onstage is really great. The Germs is probably one of the best moments, as we see Darby Crash a few months before he shot himself full of heroin and died. Snotty nihilistic punk at its rawest, there’s a scary scene when one of the girls is laughing about a Mexican painter that they found dead in their back yard. Pat Smear is in some scenes, where he confesses he doesn’t like girls. The Catholic Discipline scenes were interesting, because that was a band I’d never heard of and they were quite good – arty, sophisticated punk (seems like an anachronism, at least until the Minutemen showed up) from the guy who ran Slash Zine at the time. One interesting segment is interviews with kids from the scene that mainly focuses on their love of violence and their hatred for the world. Scary kids. The film ends in fine form with a set from Fear. Lee Ving is, of course, savage when he belts out the numbers, and the band spends an awful lot of time making gay jokes and calling the audience faggots to get a rise out of them.

TDTPOD
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny – Great intro to the movie, with a kickass song, “Kickapoo” with a funny little Jack Black, Meatloaf, and Ronnie James Dio! Dave Grohl is hilarious as the Devil, and so is a nearly-unrecognizable Tim Robbins as some sort of mysterious demon guy. The movie isn’t crack-me-up hilarious, although it has its moments, mostly carried by Jack Black’s ginormous enthusiasm, there’s also a great gag where the boys show off their birthmarks. Lots of pot references, but the lack of any female lead means that for a full 90 minutes we’re watching a pair of fat white men bounce around the world, leading us to wonder… are Jack and Kyle gay?

A
Alfie (1966) – Great old Michael Caine movie. Starts off with him shagging a bird in the back of his limo. Since it’s the 1960s, there’s no nudity or undressing of any sort, so the movie is mostly carried by Caine’s character and smart talk. Sure he’s a cad and a heel and a womanizer, but he at least allows his women to think of themselves and determine their own fates. The scenes where he talks to the camera generally work well, and it feels like “an evening with Michael Caine” more than anything else.

N
Ninotchka – My first Garbo film. Pretty funny film with some nice dialogue, even if Garbo tries to hard to be a hard-nosed Soviet Hot Lips Hulihan who melts like butter after a man teaches her how to laugh. Great elements of Marx Brothers-like screwball comedy, which includes a framed picture of Marx that breaks out in a grin. The film is actually most notable for it’s crackling dialogue:
“I’ve been fascinated by your 5-year plan for the last 15 years.”

“My only interest is in finding the shortest distance between two points. Must you flirt?”

“You are th eproduct of an extinct civilization. I pity you.”

“No one can be so happy without being punished. I should be stood up against a wall.”
“Will that make you any happier?”
“Much happier. I’ve paid the price. Now… let’s have some music!”

ANOES
A Nightmare on Elm Street – Reeeeeeealllly not sure if this film is clever or just plain stupid. Double and triple endings are fine, but is it okay to imagine that a horror film is only plausible if you convince yourself that it is all about someone’s hallucinations after spending a week taking medication to stay awake? Nice to see a young Johnny Depp get eaten by his bed (he’s fallen asleep listening to music with his headphones on AND a small TV on his hip). Of course, this is the film that introduces the creepy Freddy Krueger, and it also has the yummy tongue phone, so it’s got to be good for a laugh.

NCFOM
No Country For Old Men – I hate movies like this: A Simple Plan, Fargo, Blood Simple. Guys who think that they can get away with a perfect crime, but are really just buying a one way ticket to hell. When Llewellyn stumbles across a drug deal gone wrong and takes a case full of money that was on the scene, it’s just asking for trouble. Most of the movie is him trying to stay one step ahead of the killer who’s on his trail for the money, as well as the Mexican mob behind the drug deal. Tommy Lee Jones is in the movie as a sheriff trying to make sense of it all. Woody Harrelson is there as a crooked gangster agent of some sort. Javier Bardem is famous, of course, as the ruthless killer Anton Chigurh with the world’s most awful haircut. It’s quite hard to imagine a brutal killer so fiendishly evil, but there he is – he moves through the world like a ghost and kills anyone he can. Great scene of him blowing up a car so that he can stroll into a pharmacy and pick up some prescription drugs. His voice is unearthly – I’d like to think that it’s processed to sound vaguely demonic, but I saw Javier Bardem in The Dancer Upstairs (fantastic film), and I remember his film was very deep in a Raul Julia kind of way. I hope he can still be in good films despite winning the Best Supporting Actor award. The ending, and several unexplained plot twists, along with the ulimtate fate of Llewelyn, were ultimately unsatisfying. Where’s the patented Coen Brothers cleverness?

D
Dolls – A pastiche tale of various life stories that are somehow interspersed, often by happenstance, with the binding characteristic is that all characters are stoic and unemotional, while inside they are all emotionally fragile and victimized by life. In this sense, maybe they are weak, which is why they have amazing tales to tell. One young man betrays his fiancee, but then commits to her after an attempted suicide turns her into a vegetable; a man who devotes his life to a mediocre pop singer blinds himself after he hears that she has been in an accident and lost one of her eyes (i.e. in the land of the blind the one-eyed woman is queen); a yakuza boss senses regret in his life over a lost love. The tale is skillfully photographed with beautiful colors, and each landscape is bare, even the ones that are filmed in the city. Many moments are spent following the outdoor shuffle of the wandering zombie lovers, and we see traditional doll performance that is stunning in its expressiveness. Yet questions remain. How does it all tie together? What is the significance of a dead butterfly? How does a beach hat from 2001 manage to find its way onto the scene in 2004? How is it that the mendicants in the film are so stylishly (and colorfully) dressed?

IISFFG
If I Should Fall From Grace – A documentary about the Pogues. It contains images of Shane MacGowan dancing to the Sex Pistols in The Filth And The Fury, as well as some footage from the Nips, Shane’s early band (check out Shanne Bradley’s furious female mullet), as well as interviews of an incoherent, pupils-dialated Shane. The coverage of the Pogues’ career is somewhat patchy for this 60-minute documentary, and I badly wanted to hear more. Great interview with Nick Cave, where he talks a bit too much about himself and not enough about Shane, although he is very complimentary and eloquent. Still, it’s good to see the footage, both archival and recent, and to hear some members of the band tell their story.

N
Notorious – A beautiful movie starring two of Hollywood’s most gorgeous actors: Ingrid Bergman and Carey Grant. Some parts of the film are shaky: the introduction of the characters and falling-in-love sequence allow no comparison to Casablanca, where Bergman was matched with Bogart, but the themes are exciting and eccentric: a German-American woman, ashamed of her Nazi-sympathiser father decides to help the Feds bust Nazis working out of Rio. The antagonistic relationship between Alicia and Devlin (and throw in the cuckolded mama’s boy Alexander) is a shadow of Rick and Ilsa and Viktor’s, but it’s good fun nonetheless to have it all thrown in with a lot more drinking and sluttiness, not to mention mansions and the copa cabana (and Nazis, can’t make an intrigue without Nazis). Perhaps one of the least Hitchcockian Hitchcock films.

BAR
Burn After Reading – If “No Country For Old Men” was the Coen Brothers’ retread of the themes of “Blood Simple” and “Fargo,” “Burn After Reading” is the Coen Brothers’ attempt to give us something that will make us feel the way “The Big Lebowski” did. But, just like “No Country For Old Men” was no “Fargo,” “Burn After Reading” has only a small fraction of the things that made “The Big Lebowski” an enduring classic. Unfortunately, what we get in “Burn After Reading” is a collection of caricatures of sleazy adulterers, backstabbers and blackmailers, all of them trying to figure out what the other is doing. The film lacks a true central character and bounces around from one sleezeball to another, and despite the presence of so many big Hollywood names, none of them really do a good job, with the possible exception of John Malkovich, playing a thoroughly unpleasant, unlikeable man. JK Simmons sums up the picture well at the end when he asks “what have we learned from all of this?” Not much.

BDNDH
No Direction Home – Awesome Bob Dylan documentary of his formative years in small-town Hibbing, Minnesota and New York’s Greenwich Village that dwells at length on the controversy of Dylan’s progression from acoustic protest and topical songs to more complex and personal electric songs – of course, it’s hard to see what all the fuss was about, just as it’s hard to imagine Dylan spending the last 45 years only doing acoustic folk, but it was a big big deal at the time. The 3.5 hour story ends in 1966 with Bob’s motorcycle crash. With interviews from William Shatner-lookalike Liam Clancy, Maria Muldaur, Bruce Langhorne, Mark Spoelstra, Mavid Staples, Suze Rotolo from the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” Lawrence Ferlenghetti, D.A. Pennebaker, Pete Yarrow, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, Alan Ginsberg, and of course lots of Joan Baez. But the best interviews are with Dylan himself, which are lucid and visionary compared to Shane MacGowan in some Pogues documentaries I’ve seen recently. I never knew Bob Dylan had blue eyes. There’s a funny set of out-takes from the D.A. Pennebaker promo video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Someone makes a bone-headed comment about “Jung’s Collective Unconsciousness.” Great footage of the 1987 March on Washington and Bob’s performance there. The tale ends with Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle crash. The documentary also has plenty of zeigeist, where they ask Bob about the times back then, and how they’ve changed. JFK, war in Vietnam, institutionalized racial hatred, and all sort of other ugly stuff, and everything subtly edited together by director Martin Scorsese. The sense I get from the documentary is that Dylan is a crafty, sophisticated person, who is not just a genius songwriter but is also very good at manipulating his environment. And when the heat was on, he pulled the plug and withdrew for eight years when he didn’t tour and concentrated on his material. I wonder how many hours of documentary Scorsese will have to work on to get his tale up to a relatively current state.

HO1000C
House of 1000 Corpses – A very evil film about a family of freaks and the innocent bystanders that they prey upon. It just gets freakier and freakier. Sheri Moon Zombie is sexy but irritating (that high pitched little girl giggle is penetrating) as Baby Firefly, a remorseless killer. Rob Zombie directs it with a strange style all his own, with plenty of upside-down and colour-negative scenes.

TW
The Wackness – Very dull film about an unpopular-in-high-school pot dealer who spends his summer after graduation in New York wooing the ultra-slim-and-very-pretty Olivia Thirlby. Poor kid. Besides gorgeous Olivia, the other highlight of the film is Ben Kingsley, with a full head of hair, who gets all of the best lines. He’s a shrink on medication who smokes more dope than his daughter, gets busted, comes unglued with a midlife crisis, and is more than a little neurotic. Mary Kate Olson is in the film as a drugged-out Central Park hippy chick.

DSS
Desperately Seeking Susan – A funny, modern screwball comedy. Not that modern if you see the wacky fashions and hear the keyboard-driven pop, but in its frankness about sex and pot this is no “A Day At The Races.” Madonna is stunning, Rosanna Arquette even more so as the timid, frigid, confused suburban housewife who realizes she enjoys slumming more than cooking meals for her dorky husband. Some funny, subtle scenes, such as when the husband’s crappy hot tub commercial airs once it’s in English, the second time dubbed into Spanish. The complex plot is nearly flawless, although the “saved at the last second” scenes are a bit much to take. Lots of New York punk legends have bit parts – John Lurie, Richard Hell, Rockets Redglare, Ann Magnusson and Arto Lindsay all show up in one way or another. The DVD I saw had the alternate ending, which was straight out of a screwball comedy, but the execs went for the “neatly wrapped up” ending instead. And why not? Madonna is not in this film very much, for some reason, but showing more of Rosanna Arquette is not a bad thing, especially after she gets rid of her super-frumpy housewife outfits.  Check out Steven Wright, and a very young-looking Aidan Quinn, as well as scenes of Madonna puffing away on cigarettes – you’re not likely to ever see that happen again.

MMS
Murder, My Sweet – An old Raymond Chandler story, but with Dick Powell instead of Bogey. One of those detective films where everybody gets killed except the detective, even though everyone had a chance to get rid of him. Phillip Marlowe doesn’t really do much except walk boldly into a situation and push people’s buttons.

TS
Top Secret! - A comedy I must have watched 20 times over the years, but haven’t seen in about a decade. Watching it this time I noticed a few things I hadn’t before, like how when the Nazi messenger removes his helmet he still has a chin strap (probably painted on), and there’s a Cuisinart in Nick’s prison cell. I also didn’t realise that the music is by Maurice Jarre, who’d done all sorts of big movies (just like Omar Shariff had together with him – Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, for example). Little things. I watched it with the commentary, which was interesting. There’s an Omar Shariff dinner anecdote, about how they invited him to a big dinner but he didn’t come. They had a budget of $8 million but brought it in for $7 million. Also about the competition the guys had to see if they could get a lie in print and when one interviewer asked them what their hobbies are they made the concept of skeet surfin’ up right on the spot. The interviewer took them seriously and asked questions like “how do you keep the powder dry.” Should we believe these guys that they really told an interviewer this story? The movie is full of fake German (German-sounding words, like “die Flachmatuchen” that are either nonsense or Yiddish) as well as some difference, but they couldn’t tell the difference. They laughed at their own jokes, such as the moving train platform, the moving tree, and the “there is a schnautzer in my wiener schnitzel” gag. They discovered Val Kilmer in “Slab Boys” with Kevin Bacon. Their mothers were sitting at a table in the ballroom scene. They also got a cameo as the soldiers who nab Nick in the prop room. A funny quote about the backwards bookstore scene with Peter Cushing. They had to rehearse it a long time, and one of them said to Cushing “they probably would have already finished this scene by no in the old Hammer days,” and Cushing replied “my boy, by now they would have finished the picture and would be starting the sequel.” Lots of references to how the film lost a lot of money for the studio. Funny moment when the moderator asks what it was like having three people direction and all three answer at once. But no comments when Hillary said “it all seems like some bad movie.” Story of how they got the cows to wear boots – cut the feet off of them and velcroed them in place. No comments on Junkyard Dog, although he’s in several scenes. Didn’t like the plot, they thought that it was merely a collection of scenes, not like Airplane which they thought had a stronger plot – not sure I’d agree. They thought it would make a good 25-minute movie. The DVD contains four deleted scenes, all of which are quite good. “Fetch” is with the commadant and has a dog jumping out of the window, “Thirsty” is in the pigeon park when Nick and Hillary are talking, “Burning Passion” is a pretty good scene with Nick and Hillary when they first start making out and crush the guitar, the scene goes on and there are fireplaces everywhere the camera roams.

Original bookstore scene:

Here’s the backwards scene done forwards:

TVROTS
The Vertical Ray of the Sun – Tran Anh Hung shoots the most beautiful films, even if he doesn’t bother much with plot or dialogue (although maybe it’s the translation that makes that look so stilted).  Great scenes of people’s apartments, families eating, or visiting gorgeous inlets in Halong Bay.  Of course, Tran Nu Yen Khe, the most beautiful woman in Asian film, is in this, and she has been in all of his films so far (The Scent of Green Papayas, Cyclo, and I Come With The Rain, the last of which I haven’t seen yet).  It is the story of three sisters, two of whom are married and having problems with their husbands, although these are all forgotten when the beautiful young family comes together.  The youngest sister (Tran) is unmarried and lives with her handsome brother, both of them sharing beds and dancing close together in a way that could suggest something more if we didn’t know that she was so innocent (or suspect that he is gay).

T
Tommy – A film about cults and sadism. Young Tommy witnesses the accidental killing of his father at the hands of his mother’s lover. He goes into a catatonic state and becomes deaf, dumb and blind. He grows up to become a shaggy Roger Daltry, who spends nearly 60 minutes of the film acting like a vegetable as he is tortured by his mother, her lover, and various freaks. Elton John appears as the Pinball Wizard on giant prop legs as he plays crappy pinball (what kind of a pinball wizard is he if the balls keep going down the chute?) at a machine that also has a cheezy keyboard built in. Lots of scenes of Ann Margaret applying make-up, her weirdest scene is when she throws a champagne bottle through a TV set, which suddenly starts spewing beans and chocolate syrup, which she then rolls around in and spreads all over her face and body. Yuck. There’s a weird scene of a super-Tommy on a hang glider rescuing bikers who’d been ambushed and overrun by other bikers. The theme of religion is everywhere as they move from the Church of Marilyn (where Eric Claption is a guitar-playing preacher) to the Church of Tommy, and then the Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I was keen to see the film, mostly to satisfy my curiosity, but it was quite barfy and not a lot of fun.

TLW
The Last Waltz – Although The Band is filmed here in their prime for their final show, they had been together 16 years by that point in 1978, having provided backup for Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan. Martin Scorsese directs this, and you see him interviewing a somewhat confused Robbie Robertson, who asks Scorsese to repeat every question that he asks. There are nice scenes in the opening credits of people waltzing. The Band busts into a few of their well known numbers, then Ronnie Hawkins comes on to do a rip-snortin’ version of “Who Do You Love,” a song I only know from George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers but is a Bo Didley song.

Comments are closed.