Friday, January 15, 2016

This Week in Neat-O

:: An oral history of Now That's What I Call Music

:: Alan Sepinwall interviews Kristin Newman, the new showrunner for The Muppets, about her plans for the remaining episodes. What she has to say is interesting; I think the show's been getting better over time, and her plans sound more like a slight re-tooling than a reboot (honestly, the word "reboot" has become so meaningless the way it gets thrown around). I still bristle at a lot of the criticisms of the show, I think partially because so many people seem to really, truly not want the Muppets to be actual characters but to be always-likable whimsy machines. But Newman was in charge on the Christmas episode last month, which was probably my second favorite ep so far, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

:: Devin Faraci has some beautiful thoughts about what David Bowie meant to him.

:: The new trailer for The Witch is so good I wish I was watching the movie right now.

:: A video interview with Ahmed Best about Jar Jar Binks. His perspective is interesting, and I always like to hear him do the voice. I loved it when Jar Jar would show up on Clone Wars. A teeny tiny part of me will always hold out hope for a Rebels appearance... hey, Hondo showed up, so why not? So did Lando, And Vader. And Yoda. And Princess Leia is going to be on the next episode.

:: Speaking of Rebels, if you're watching it because, you know, you're a Star Wars fan, here's the trailer for the second half of season two.

:: An interesting article on fan theories and why they suck (particularly the Star Wars ones), which parses out why the classic film twists work. I almost never say this about anything, but there's a really interesting discussion in the comments about it, too.

Meanwhile, sites continue to discuss whether or not toys and tee shirts are giving away key plot points, then pride themselves on predicting those plot points, and then get angry with the movies themselves for not having harder-to-guess plot points...

I think my favorite (/sarcasm) fan theory about Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens is that he's an Inquisitor from Star Wars Rebels, because people were so dismissive about "Would Lucasfilm really introduce such an important character on some Disney XD series?" Like... Boba Fett was introduced on the Holiday Special. Of course, Boba Fett isn't an important character, so...

:: The trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane is pretty damn effective.

RIP Alan Rickman

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981)
LA punk isn't generally my thing (I'm a New York punk guy), but this was a very interesting documentary about some of the bands of the period and why they were doing what they were doing (and how the rest of society was reacting--or overreacting, in a lot of cases). ****

CLASS OF 1984 (1982)
This movie plays like someone saw the punk movement and freaked out. A teacher transfers to a city school where crime is rampant and runs afoul of a group of punks. Bizarre movie; it plays like a horror flick, and it's one of those exploitation movies that wants you to think about the problem it's trying to tackle, but then makes you crave blood in a way that's satisfying when you get it. Not a bad movie, and very visceral, but... bizarre. ***

MY SWEET AUDRINA (2016)
Lifetime needs to stop half-assing these VC Andrews adaptations and just make something truly turgid and sordid. Where's the commitment to the real weirdness of this kind of Gothic horror? **

LA CEREMONIE (1995)
Well-observed film by Claude Chabrol. Sadrine Bonnaire plays a young woman who is either dyslexic or illiterate, but who schemes her way into a job as maid and cook for a wealthy family that lives in a country town. Also in town is the postmistress, played by Isabelle Huppert, who is rumored to have murdered her own daughter and who has turned the wealthy family into the symbol of everything that is unfair and unjust about her life. The two strike up a friendship that at first seems opportunistic (the postmistress keeps trying to use the maid for information on the family), but becomes something much more dangerous and symbiotic. What happens next is somehow both shocking and inevitable. ****

EQUINOX FLOWER (1958)
This is Yasujiro Ozu's first color film, and it's fascinating to look at some of the details he captures. For some reason or other, I was really taken with the way Japanese culture in the fifties is a combination of tradition and midcentury modern touches. The color made it all stand out, but that little detail is only part of the larger theme of the movie, which is about how gradually traditional ways are dismantled and give way to something more modern. The film follows a successful businessman whose marriage was arranged. A friend's daughter eschews the idea of arranged marriages as something old-fashioned, preferring instead a marriage based on infatuation. He envies her this, but when his own daughter wants to follow her heart instead of the traditional path, he becomes rigid and forbids it. What Ozu asks us to consider is at what point tradition ceases to be necessary, and whether happiness is more important than tradition or even success. The businessman's wife openly reminisces for the days of World War II and hiding in bomb shelters, nostalgic for those times because even though it was a struggle to live, the family had more time together; she misses family dinners and holidays; he thinks she's crazy to prize such things over financial stability, even though he works so much now that he barely sees his family anymore. I've seen a number of Ozu movies over the years, and this might be the one I've connected to the most. I was moved by one man's unwilling journey of tolerance and understanding. ****

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie 1947-2016

Well... I guess I thought he'd live forever.

One of my artistic idols. One of my heroes. Bowie is my God, I've said a million times.

David Bowie died last night... not something I ever imagined myself saying.

Back at Barnes & Noble, playing his music all day, probably to the point where some people I worked with never wanted to hear David Bowie again, I used to talk about how so much of pop culture owed itself to this man. He left some DNA in every modern music genre; starting as an Anthony Newley-style folkie, he became one of the faces of glam, one of the satellites of the new romantic, was right there at the birth of new wave, and embraced new age, industrial, jungle, art rock, krautrock, ambient, electronic music, blue-eyed soul, world music, post-punk, alternative, techno, even jazz. He constantly reinvented himself on his own terms, and I just admired it so much.

David Bowie was my hero the same way Jim Henson was my hero.

What a loss for our music and our art.

Not a great start, 2016. A world with Bowie is a lesser world.

And the stars look very different today...

From "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide": Oh no, love, you're not alone, no matter what or who you've been, no matter when or where you've seen, all the knives seem to lacerate your brain, I've had my share, I'll help you with the pain... You're not alone!

Growing up, I was a weirdo. I'm still a weirdo. It's just that I have the internet now and kind find fellow weirdos. David Bowie made this weirdo feel not alone. And in high school, when I most needed to know it.

Damn.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Song of the Week: "Sweet Dreams"

Definitely not what I've been having lately. This is Kiwi rock band Split Enz in 1976, when they were still a progressive/art rock band; I love the way they meld pop with prog touches in the instrumentation in this track (produced by Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera). If you remember Split Enz more from their early 80s new wave singles like "Six Months in a Leaky Boat," this sounds almost like a totally different band.