Saturday, January 31, 2004
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Ah, now here's a job I could really go for: Minister of Good Times for the Guinness Party. Considering the excessive amount of Guinness I consumed last night I should be a shoe-in.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Monday, January 19, 2004
Shut the Fuck Up: How Travis Bickle Ruined Film For the Rest of Us
I finally saw Goodfellas in its entirety yesterday. It was extremely well-made and enjoyable but I didn't think it was outstanding or particularly moving. It's certainly not the greatest film of the decade, like some polls make it out to be.
Seeing the film helped crystallize for me a theory I'd been churning around in my head for some time. You see, I have identified a breed of film fan that I like call the Bickles. As you can tell from their name, their favourite era of film is the period described in Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, when the new breed of directors (Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, etc.) briefly took over Hollywood. Their favourite actors are DeNiro, Pacino, Pesci and possibly Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe. Their favourite films are any DeNiro/Scorcese film, the Godfather series and The Deer Hunter. More recent films they consider classics include Fight Club and Pulp Fiction. (The sadly-demised Your Movie Database was crawling with Bickles. Just look at the list of top-rated films.)
Bickles consider themselves lovers of "film" (as opposed to the plebian movie fan) and are usually fixated with films depicting the struggles of life in the mafia or sad angry loners. Secondary characteristics of the Bickles may include an appreciation of Spielberg for his ability for straddling both popcorn blockbusters (Indiana Jones, Jaws) and Oscar-baiting serious pictures (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List). A Bickle probably grew up loving the original Star Wars series.
Having identified my target I can now make my statement on the matter -- I hate these films and I hate the Bickles.
It's not that I don’t find them excellent pictures. The first Godfather film in particular surprised me by how well it lived up to its incredible reputation (overrated performance from Brando aside). But I find many similar works from the time (Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Godfather II) to be underwhelming or at times unbearable (as I recently described with M*A*S*H).
They're fatally flawed in certain elements that would, for me, push them into the realm of "great films". So it angers me that every time there's a poll on the "greatest movies of all time" the traditional Bickleite canon pops up.
What is it that these films are missing? Simple -- a realistic portrayal of women. In most of these films the depiction of women is overly-simplistic or non-existent. Look at The Godfather -- Mama Corleone is a non-entity. She's always off in her room or hidden away. What kind of a depiction of mob life can the film claim to be when it ignores the Italian mother? Diane Keaton's character and Michael's Italian wife are also similarly facile.
Even worse, the pervading Bickle mentality hurts the film industry because it discourages women from entering the field. When a girl growing up is told that the films of the Bickle genre are the best American films of all time what is she to think? The majority of the films involve men who are forced to do brutal and violent things because they have no other choice.
Of course, as any Bickle will tell you, those films are about much more than just the violence. And they're absolutely right. The films are about the loneliness of the human condition and notions of duty, family and honour. Clearly, these are critical themes for young men in our society. But while these films may be outwardly about duty and honour the subtext is that Women Don't Understand. In the films women are usually only good for fucking and even then it's not worth the effort since they'll only nag the hero or cause friction between him and his buddies.
I'm not saying we should stop watching Bickle films or that some of them are not excellent works of art. What I'm trying to say is that the themes contained in them are not the only ones in the world worthy of cinematic exploration and celebration. And by loading the front-end of most "best of" lists with Bickleite films, and piling awards on such films, it's the equivalent of the sign on boys' clubhouse -- "NO GIRLS ALLOWED".
The worst thing I would want to do is install some sort of affirmative action to "balance" out the machismo of the reigning Bickle Canon. But I think it's worth exploring just why the Bickles have such a stranglehold over the Hollywood canon these days.
It's also worth noting that many of the Bickle Generation have grown up. For all his hyper-violence, Quentin Tarantino's women characters are extremely well-written. The Sopranos is another good example, especially with the recent developments concerning Tony and Carmela's marriage.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Today's Flea Market Haul:
Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure
Shortlived power pop supergroup featuring Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. It's got an early rock 'n' roll Buddy Holly feel to it. Good!
The Sweet - Desolation Boulevard
"All right, fellas. Let's gooooooOOOO!!"
Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass - Whipped Cream and Other Delights
Classic album, if only for its legendary cover.
Bay City Rollers - s/t
So. Much. Plaid. And were these guys really considered cute? The standards for teen idols in the '70s must've been pretty low.
Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul
I'll probably never listen to this considering the tracks are ten minutes long. But I thought it'd be cool to have. For a buck you can't really go wrong.
Wham! - Make it Big
I'm shocked to discover from reading the back of the album cover that I've been spelling Andrew Ridgeley's name wrong for ages. I'm so ashamed.
Mrs. Mills - Plays the Roaring Twenties
I have no idea either. The cover says it's "The Hap-Hap-Happy Album" and the liner notes invite me to "Play the record and be happy with Mrs. Mills". Who am I to argue? However, I don't think I'll be purchasing the other "happy" albums advertised on the back, The Billy Cotton Band Show's Wakey Wakey!! and Your Minstrel Sing Along.
Not bad for $10.75. All in all, a successful outing.
Friday, January 16, 2004
Russian girl with x-ray vision -- Let's hope she reads my previous post about tumours. She might have a brilliant future as an oncologist. Or crimefighting. Maybe both! I smell a WB pilot...
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
From the Things You Really Didn't Need to Know Department: A friend complained to me the other day that she thought of an irritating co-worker as a "malignant tumour with teeth". I thought it was just a phrase but she told me that, if left untreated, some tumours can actually grow hair and teeth. I assumed that by "teeth" she meant little nibbly teeth, like those in small fish. Well, it turns out that, no, it's real human-sized TEETH. Check out this and this x-ray for proof. As gross as this is, the men reading this can relax: apparently it only happens to women. Lucky us.
Saturday, January 10, 2004
The Unofficial Indiana Jones IV page -- My friends and I have decided that the fourth Indy film needs to feature a religious artifact simply because the only non-religiousy installment, Temple of Doom, sucked the big one. Apparently Steven Spielberg feels the same way, since he's on the record as saying the film will deal with Biblical elements. So that leads to the question of which relic will Indy be after. According to this website the most likely candidate is something related Noah's Ark. That makes sense from an archaeological standpoint but not from an action movie perspective. I mean, why would evildoers want a piece of wood from the ark? Besides, he can't be after another ark (yeah, I know they're totally different but the name is still the same and it would confuse the moviegoing masses). The website also lists one plot point I hope they don't follow: "Oh Brother -- one of the oldest rumored plots involves Indy's evil long-lost brother coming back again. Supposedly the brother (rumoured to be called Montana or Connecticut Jones) wants to find the current whereabouts of the Lost Ark." Yikes. Sounds like something Fametracker's "From the Future" coming attractions featurewould come up with. (Speaking of which, check out their recent take on upcoming Jack Nicholson flicks.)
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Who says superhero comics don't have any new ideas these days? Marvel is introducing a teenage clone of Wolverine. Wait, wait. It gets better. She's a girl and has two claws instead of three. The best bit? Her name is X-23. I love how Marvel isn't even trying with the codenames anymore. X-23 apparently first turned up in that wretched cartoon, X-Men Evolution. Now, she's in the new title NYX (see what I mean?), which is about mutant street kids. Oh, and she's a crack whore in this version instead of deadly HYDRA agent. Way to go, Marvel.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Nothing beats the feeling of finding a typo in a cover letter you wrote weeks after applying for the job! WheeooO! Some writer I am.
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
Worst Album Covers Ever -- Part I and Part II. I have seen a lot of bad covers in my life but these are pretty damn horrendous. In a good way, of course. They tend to fall into three categories: a) creepy homoerotica b) geekily wholesome yet still disturbingly creepy and c) Millie Jackson. (Via Daily Jive)
Monday, January 05, 2004
The best bit about World Idol the other day (OK, the only good bit, apart from seeing Ant & Dec again) was the look of disbelief Kelly Clarkson's face as she realized the title wasn't going to be handed to her on a silver platter. Turns out that she ran off the set before congratulating Bonohobbit Kurt on his title. Looks like Simon forgot to fill Kelly in on the first rule of showbiz: don't believe your own hype.
Things Everyone Loved in 2003 But I Didn't:
1. The O.C. -- No, I'm sorry. Just...no.
2. Lord of the Rings -- I have a high tolerance for science fiction and superheroics but I absolutely loathe the fantasy genre. Nevertheless, I've always had a soft spot for The Hobbit. But the LOTR series is too much geek even for me.
3. The White Stripes -- You couldn’t escape the Whites this year, not even in Civil War period movies. I like them well enough but, as far as I'm concerned you've heard one album you've heard them all.
Best Band That Didn't Actually Release Anything This Year: The Jesus and Mary Chain -- Not only was their Psychocandy-era sound ripped off by younger bands good (The Raveonettes) and bad (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) but "Just Like Honey" played a pivotal role in my favourite film of the year, Lost in Translation. Which brings me to…
Fave films of 2003
1. Lost in Translation -- You either get it, or don't. I think everyone has made up their mind by now.
2. Down With Love -- Underrated film of the year!
3. X2 -- Mutant geek heaven.
4. Dirty Pretty Things -- Chiwetel Ejiofor is the leading man of the future. Too bad he wasn't given much to do in Love Actually (which I also liked, actually).
5. The Corporation -- Scary, funny and enlightening. Sometimes all at the same time, such as the part where the CEO of Shell has tea on his front lawn with the anti-globalization activists.
My 2003 in Sound and Pictures
Yes, all those file-sharing apps have spoiled me. Albums -- who needs 'em? Most bands can only muster up one or two good songs per album anyway. Not to say that I didn't enjoy a lot of the albums that these songs came from. But for the most part, the albums comprised 12 minor variations of the songs I've listed here. Of course, the Raveonettes' Chain Gang of Love is supposed to sound the same and as such is totally great. So it just goes to show that rules are made to be broken.
There is one clear winner for my favourite album of the year: Belle & Sebastian's Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Their previous full-length, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant is exhibit number one in the case against songwriting democracy in bands. But I knew from the I'm Waking Up to Us EP that B&S hadn't totally lost it. The title song was one of the great underlooked songs of 2001. Still, I never thought the band would come back with an album as fantastic as this. Before hearing Dear Catastrophe, I was beginning to question what had made me think the band was so great in the first place. By track four of the record ("Piazza, New York Catcher") I was cursing myself for ever doubting them. And yes, it's cheesy to name one of your favourite bands as making the album of the year. But I can't help it.
And so, on to my Favourite Songs of 2003 (in no particular order). I admit I suffer from short memory syndrome like the rest of the world when compiling "year end" lists.
1. Belle & Sebastian - "Stay Loose"
B&S go new wave!
2. The Raveonettes - "That Great Love Sound"
Forget the White Stripes! This is my pick for boy-girl minimalist retro rock duo of the year. Imagine Roxette were cloned and then forced to watch nothing but '50s biker films and listen to Jesus and Mary Chain records over and over again. Then they made a record! Entirely in B minor flat major!
3. OutKast - "Hey Now!"
I only wish this song had come out a year earlier. Andre could have performed this at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, unifying the nations of the world and thus avoiding the Iraq War. It's that good.
4. Fountains of Wayne - "Hackensack"
"Hey Julie" is just as good but "Hackensack" namedrops Christopher Walken so it wins.
5. The Unicorns - "(I Was Born) A Unicorn"
I've been hunting high and low for the album but I think I'm going to have to order it directly from the record label. I hope the rest of the album is as good as this goofy ode to well...unicorns. I'm still sorry that I missed them play at this year's Halifax Pop Explosion. Instead, I took a trip to Ottawa and got bitten by bedbugs. Bad choice.
6. Johnny Cash - "Hurt"
It's not often my father and I agree on music. This is one of those rare exceptions. Rest in peace, Johnny.
7. The Darkness - "I Believe in a Thing Called Love"
A tie with "Hurt" for video of the year. GUITAR!!!
8. Guided by Voices - "Best of Jill Hives"
Another year, another glut of Robert Pollard recordings. I'm glad someone else took the time to compile the long-awaited GbV retrospective disc (Human Amusements at Hourly Rates).
9. Junior Senior - "Move Your Feet"
C-c-can't stop dancing!!
10. Joe Jackson - "Awkward Age"
Old guys aren't supposed to write songs this good anymore.
and the rest:
11. Black Box Recorder - "Andrew Ridgley"
12. The Libertines - "Don't Look Back Into the Sun"
13. Tangiers - "Anxiety"
14. Sloan - "Rest of My Life"
15. The Strokes - "12:51"
16. British Sea Power - "Remember"
17. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci - "Eyes of Green, Green, Green"
18. Super Furry Animals - "Liberty Belle"
19. The Shins - "Young Pilgrims"
20. Fruit Bats - "When U Love Someone"
21. Adam Green - "Jessica"
Ever the English gent, Ray Davies is shot trying to recover a stolen purse. I'm glad he's OK. But this gives me the opportunity to blog an Kinks-related anecdote I read on the official Belle & Sebastian website yesterday...
Stuart describes his finest moment: "Asking Chrissie Hynde whether she knew if Ray Davies had ever heard The Pretenders’ version of 'Stop Your Sobbing'. 'I should think so,' said Chrissie. 'I was married to him.' "
Friday, January 02, 2004
My 2004 so far:
Still no job.
My resolution to finally give up beef and greasy hamburgers lasted 1 day and 14 hours.
My kidneys are chilly.
I'm pleased to see that the world has better taste in singers than the music industry gives them credit for.
Overall mood: unenthused.