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Showing posts from March, 2005

Indisputable Classic Time: Serpico

Sidney Lumet received a life achievement Oscar this last February. That he never won a Best Director Trophy seems all the more screwy to me after re-watching one of his finest, Serpico , on DVD over the weekend. Few directors have juggled hot-button issues, pretense-free storytelling, and genuine artistry so adroitly over a career, and in 1973 Serpico found Lumet at the top of his game. Based on a true story, the film follows Frank Serpico (Al Pacino), an earnest and hard-working New York policeman who rises from beat-cop grunt work up to plainclothes duty. Along his path up the ladder of the force, he's faced with workaday examples of the NYPD's imperfections; smatterings of police brutality, departmental intolerance at his unconventional appearance, and most significantly, fellow officers on the take. Serpico navigates this minefield of politics and corruption, solving problems on his own terms while keeping himself at arms' length from department misdeeds, until his r

Crappy Musical of the Week: The Apple

I'm not entirely positive why bad movie musicals exude such a strange fascination for me. I'm not much of a fan of the genre, as a whole, in the first place. Maybe the root of my intrigue is that the cinematic musical is fraught with so many potential aesthetic landmines. A musical attempts to convey, in picture and song, essential human emotions in the most candy-coated, outwardly impractical format possible--by having its characters sing their feelings aloud. Such earnest sentimental display has been largely unfashionable since the Vietnam Era. Creating the Pocket Universe of a musical requires more lavish sets and costumes than most other films, and in addition to appropriate emoting and delivery of spoken lines, actors must sing and dance--no mean feat, as Marlon Brando and Clint Eastwood (who had their career clocks cleaned by Guys and Dolls and Paint Your Wagon , respectively) would likely concur. So the stakes are much, much higher for a musical. If it flops, it does

Japanese Rock Invasion!!

OK, I swear I'm not renaming this Blog Japanese Pop Petri Dish, nor am I getting kickbacks from the Japanese music industry. But, starting last week with the frontal assault of Guitar Wolf, and at several points this week and next, a heap of bands from the Land of the Rising Sun will be rocking the house in this town. And a lot of 'em (the ones I've heard, at least) are good enough to transcend novelty and merit a stand-alone shout out. Sadly, one of the best of these bands just played Seattle this last Sunday March 20 alongside the Emerald City's own sci-fi nerd/death metal maniacs, Bloodhag. When I saw Okinawan power trio Bleach (aka Bleachmobile) in 2003 as part of a package tour with Japanese indie label Benten Records, they trotted to the stage so quietly you wouldn't have noticed them. Their bassist, a demure and shy girl in her early 20's, strapped on her instrument, gently removed her glasses, then kicked on the amp and began throbbing out rhythms so

Live Rundown: Duran Duran and Guitar Wolf

Enclosed please find the rundown on the two live shows I caught a little over a week ago. Duran Duran marked my first honest-to-God arena show in many, many moons, and the crowd amassed for the occasion looked like (as my fellow attendee Bob Suh eloquently remarked) our twenty-year high-school reunion. Most of them seemed like nice folks taking the night off from work and parenting to relive some long-dormant memories. Seeing a soccer mom doing the Curvy-Armed New Wave Dance to "Union of the Snake" was a beautiful thing. Refreshingly, the Fab Five put on a tight show with enough energy to dispel a lot of my old-farts-cynically-milking-it preconceptions. The old stuff sounded great (unforgiving arena acoustics excepted), and even the newer material from Astronaut flourished in the live setting. My favorite three moments: one, an immaculately delivered version of "The Chauffeur", replete with clay flute and sleek Euro atmosphere; two, the blindingly cool anime shor

S and H Pure Cop Drama: Starsky and Hutch Revisited

Like most refugees of my generation, I ingested an awful lot of '70's TV in my childhood. But, amazingly enough, I managed to largely miss Starsky and Hutch , one of the era's most popular cop shows, as a kid. So, I approached my wife's spanking new Complete First Season on DVD last November with an unbiased eye and no warm nostalgia to fuzz up my perceptions. Flash forward four months. As of this writing, I've now sucked down the complete First and Second Season, and am well into the Third, which just came out this week. Like Lay's Potato Chips, Starsky and Hutch ain't fine dining (it was executive produced by TV's hack-a-licious dynamos Leonard Goldberg and Aaron Spelling, for cryin' out loud), but there's some tasty snacking to be had. Betcha can't watch just one. S & H provided another update on the time-honored buddy-cop show. Paul Michael Glaser played wisecracking and pugnacious Dave Starsky, and former Here Come the Brides re

Guitar Wolf will jet rock you to killing crazy!!

Cliffs Notes on today's entry: Guitar Wolf is playing at Chop Suey in Seattle on Friday night, March 11. If you live in this region, have a pulse, and possess any love for real rock and roll, BE THERE . You're an idjit if you ain't. Yesterday I spent a whole entry justifying my fondness for Duran Duran. I hope that my brave stance won't seem hypocritical in light of this column, which extols the virtues of sweaty, loud, ugly rock, the no-bull variety with a lineage that runs from old-school rockabilly to The Cramps to The Ramones. For real rock and roll is in mighty short supply in these devalued times. Let's not delude ourselves; rock has become the muzak of this generation. Every car commercial sports a razor-sharp guitar riff; every reality show uses rock as anonymous bumper music while the latest reality TV plebes race, eat worms, or screw. Even great songs get co-opted by The Man (The Ramones in a Pepsi commercial...bluurrgg...), and the kids have confused m

It's a (not-so) New Religion: Duran Duran, Live

It's very surreal to be old enough to have bands who were popular in my youth break up, reform in truncated fashion, then reunite years later in full original-lineup regalia for reunion tours. Such involved histories only happen to geezers like Crosby Stills and Nash, for God's sake-- not Duran Duran. But sure enough, this Wednesday March 9, those selfsame Britpop sensations from the Big Hair and Shoulder-Pads-to-Match decade will hit the stage at the Everett Events Center in lovely Everett, Washington for a reunion show. And though I'm normally too much of a jaded music geek to participate in an honest-to-God arena concert, this one promises to be interesting. For one thing, it's the first time in 16 years that the original lineup (vocalist Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and the three unrelated Taylors named John, Andy, and Roger on bass, guitar, and drums respectively) are playing as a group. For another, time has granted DD something critics in the '80

Petri List: Favorite Screen Villains (this week)

Cinema villains come in all shapes, sizes, sexes, and species. When a villain works, he/she/it can make a bad movie tolerable, a good movie great, and a great movie transcendental. So in compiling my list of fave villains I found a surprising number of great characters/performances in so-so (or worse) movies popping into my head. Conversely, I also noted how many decent movies suffered from the lack of a compelling villain in the lead. For my list, I deliberately eliminated movie monsters. Actual monsters either have decided strains of sympathy in their makeup (Boris Karloff's definitive Frankenstein's Monster, for example, is a large, misunderstood child 'neath his large and lethal exterior) or they're big, mindless killing machines (a la Bruce the Shark or Ridley Scott's aliens). So, in the end, my notion of a screen villain is generally a (usually human) character who actively engineers misfortune for some or all of the other characters in the film; there's