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Archive for August, 2009

quentin tarantino

Man, that Quentin Tarantino really knows his music.  Matter of fact I haven’t seen a Tarantino film that didn’t use music as a great enabler between the audience and the storyline.

madsen reservoir dogs

Take Reservoir Dogs, for instance. Why does the image of Michael Madsen grooving with a razorblade come to mind? (apart from the fact that Mr Madsen is obscenely cool). Two words for you…Stealers Wheel. That’s the band who recorded Stuck In The Middle With You, which was so expertly featured in that famed torture scene with Mr Blonde and the police officer.

tim roth pulp fiction

Here’s another one…think about what you remember the most about Pulp Fiction? For me, it has to be Dick Dale’s Misirlou – a kickass instrumental romp that plays once Pumpkin and Honey Boney get busy trying to rob the restaurant. Same goes for Jackie Browne and its excellent use of Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street and Tomoyasu Hotei’s Battle Without Honor or Humanity in Kill Bill I. Great tunes that instantaneously become greater with their association with pivotal sections of the film.

Quite recently, I got my hands on the Death Proof and Planet Terror soundtracks and I’ll be damned if these two didn’t contain some of the most fantastic music I have heard all year.  Death Proof is like that worn-out jukebox that the most detached college kid in the neighbourhood had during the Seventies. Bawdy, loud, fun and chockfull of throwback rock and roll.

april march

Despite contributions from fascinating bands such as Pacific Gas & Electric, The Coasters and T Rex, it is April March’s super-annoying Chick Habit that steals the limelight. Make no mistake, it is in fact super fucking annoying, but for some reason – it works remarkably well when heard in the film. I am yet to get Rosario Dawson’s skull crushing stomp out of my head.

As for Planet Terror (wasn’t directed by him, but I couldn’t help it), well I didn’t know that Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan could make such beautifully intense music. Ms Gowan shines the brightest when she lets her voice melt like sad butter on You Belong To Me, as Rodriguez pretty much kills it on most of the original compositions. Cherry Darling, Cherry’s Dance Of Death and The Grindhouse Blues are gnarly, ferocious and ethereal – all at once.

Man, that Tarantino fellow knows his music so well that it must be rubbing off on his friends too.

Listen (to other great Tarantino tunes)

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – Hold Tight (Death Proof)

The Statler Brothers – Flowers On The Wall (Pulp Fiction)

Jimmie Vaughan  – Dengue Woman Blues (From Dusk Till Dawn)

George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag (Reservoir Dogs)

Dimitri Tiomkin – The Green Leaves of Summer (Inglourious Basterds, apparently)

Buy

Warm clothes

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lawn

Lawn Dogs: I am not entirely sure what director John Duigan wanted to convey through Lawn Dogs. It is the equivalent of reading a Patrick McCabe novel. You are not entirely sure about what’s going on, but somehow you are moved by it. Throw in some over-the-top symbolism and a haunting musical score and you’ll be lucky not to be squatting naked on your bathroom floor, clutching your knees, sobbing while dealing with a migraine by the end of the film.

Alright, maybe I exaggerate a bit (certainly not about McCabe though, try reading Mondo Desperado), but seriously, the ending freaked me out. And I want that beautiful piece of music that pierces through the climax more than I want chocolate shavings on my double-scoop sundae.

lawn dogs

Sam Rockwell once again gets on every critic’s good side with his commitment to his character’s eccentricities. Even in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, he played the role of Zaphod Beeblebrox with the perfect level of silliness and assholishness (I don’t get paid for this, you know). In Lawn Dogs, Rockwell plays Trent – a free-spirited, slightly insane trailer park reject who makes a living by mowing lawns in the nearby sophisticated housing development. Enter Mischa Barton, who plays Devon Stockard – a ten-year-old girl who feels so burdened by society’s imperfections that she hardly feels the need to let her mind wander within hundred feet of reality. They have something in common – the urge to keep running away until normalcy is all but a tiny dot.

Of course, the other residents misconstrue certain events, which leads to many awkward moments and by the end, a few disturbing, violent ones between these two lawn dogs and the rest of the world. Like I said earlier, I don’t think Lawn Dogs ended the way that would have probably catapulted it to greatness (or at least what I conceive to be so), but it did leave me with a feeling that it could never be replicated again. That’s more than I can say for most of what artists across different medium spewed forth during the Nineties.

donnie-darko-poster04

Donnie Darko: Dam…I should have watched Donnie Darko a few years ago. Not that I didn’t enjoy it a whole lot, but something tells me that I would have just stopped short of persistently drooling if I had watched it then. See folks, if you want to make a film about teenagers getting messed up by peer pressure, social alienation and all that, this is what you do. You hire a competent actor (Jake Gyllenhaal is exactly that), give his character a vague emotional crisis, weave a plausible storyline around his life and then boldly going where few films about stressed out teenagers go  – a dark alley where different genres of film meet up and shake hands.

doniie darko

Donnie Darko does that to science fiction; often teasing to cross paths with time travel, but never obliging to say more than a kind word. I’ll stop before I confuse you further by talking about everything else than the storyline. So, go watch Donnie Darko. It is directed by Richard Kelly and features solid performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal (whom I think can do no wrong) and Holmes Osbourne. Oh, Patrick Swayze is remarkably sleazy and awesome in his role as the motivational speaker. No wonder he almost managed to save Niall Johnson’s Keeping Mum with similar creepiness.

followingFollowing: This one is Christopher Nolan’s first full-length feature film and with the exception of Memento, it also happens to be his most satisfying work. Surprisingly, most its uniqueness stems from the fact that the storytelling in Following hardly bears to any resemblance to any of his future endeavors that brought Hollywood to its knees. Before I go on raving about this and that, you should know that the narration is presented in a disjointed format; meaning that Christopher Nolan – the cinematographer – had more of an impact on this film than Nolan – the director or the writer.

Shot in a grainy 16 MM camera, it gives us a glimpse into the life of ‘Bill’ (Jeremy Theobald) – a writer who one day decides to follow people in order to understand more about them. An encounter with a sharp dressed thief (Alex Haw) leads ‘Bill’ and us, the audience, into a journey of fractured self-discovery. So, is this film noir? Perhaps, but with muted words replacing dramatic silence.

Pi

Pi: And this one just happens to be Darren Aronofsky debut film (both of which are available, excellently packaged at Rainbow DVD store in Old Parsons Complex). This too has been shot in murky black and white with the inconsistent camerawork working to its benefit. As horribly cheesy as the tagline – searching for patterns in all the wrong places – is, it perhaps is the most accurate description of Aronofsky oddly intense debut.

Pi has Sean Gullette playing Max Cohen – a New York-based mathematical theorist who believes that numbers can solve universal complexities and provide a definitive answer to the biggest problem of all, life itself. With the help of Euclid (his homemade supercomputer), he looks to find patterns that could give him control over the stock market. Like Following, the protagonist’s life changes after a strange encounter with an even stranger man – in this case, Lenny Meyer (Ben Shenkman), an orthodox Jew who theorizes on Torah (Judaism’s original religious and legal texts).

Pi

Now look, I have absolutely hated mathematics as long as my memory permits. Nothing made me sadder as a kid than to know that solving a problem involving numbers held the key to how close I was to a righteous asskicking from my dad. Despite that, I enjoyed the tricky arithmetic of Pi; mostly because the director didn’t suck the life out of it by taking away the element of human error.

Pi is splendid mostly because we pity Max Cohen more than anything else.

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Folk music, apart from being a natural extension of cultural folklore, has also built up quite the reputation for echoing the cries of the working class. As described by English antiquarian William Thoms, the word itself supposedly encompasses “the traditions, customs, and superstitions of the uncultured classes”.

Devendra Banhart

Nowadays, you can associate folk music with neither dissidence nor callousness; two warring emotional factions that could make for deliberately uncomfortable listening. Devendra Banhart is a glorious exception (unless I have missed out a few others). If at all, you find his music to be repetitive or the trembling in his voice to be annoying, do not panic…you just need a couple of whiskey shots and a few Woody Guthrie songs inside you for this to work out just fine.

DevendraBanhart

As far as I’m concerned, Devendra Banhart is a friggin beacon of light in today’s cluttered indie folk scene. There is an air of whimsy that hovers around his lightweight acoustic music like a hummingbird; suffocating it with a sense of urgency that normally would be reserved for the most delirious of funk musicians.

In another (and obviously better) world, every radio station would invite daybreak with songs such as Lazy Butterfly or Autumn’s Child. They would even coax it back to its slumber by evening to tunes like Seahorse. As far from this world as we are, Devendra Banhart is still my favourite companion to drown the traffic noise outside my car window.

Watch

Devendra Banhart – Insect Eyes

Devendra Banhart – Feel Just Like A Child

Devendra Banhart – Sight to Behold (live)

Buy

Cripple Crow

Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon

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A few requests for splendid soul music have come marching in , so I guess it’s time for YouTube to make a rare appearance in its full glory.

(clears throat)…just in case you haven’t already visited Souled On to whet your appetite for afro-centric music, here’s a gentle reminder why…nah screw it, just listen to Aretha Franklin coax her soul to take a stance on While The Blood Runs Warm

Mahalia Jackson is everybody’s mother when she sings.

Do YouTube these gorgeous women of soul more often.

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citizen_kane_1

Citizen Kane: Very few people I know disliked Citizen Kane. Even fewer could exactly tell me just what it is they liked about the film. Some only pretend to appreciate it because their movie geek friends would judge them if they didn’t. I have watched Citizen Kane a couple of times and I’m yet to find something even remotely justifying its apparent spot in the upper echelons of cinema.

Personally, I’d like to think that Citizen Kane is one of those films, which is dwarfed by the musings that followed its appreciation. So many people have written so splendidly about it that everyone else just assumes that it is perhaps the greatest film ever. And then there is the ‘oh but it was magnificently edited’ argument flaunted by others. If technical aspects of a film can propel it to greatness then by its logical application on the theories of music, Joe Satriani must be the greatest guitarist ever. In fact, Orson Welles’ so-called epic is a lot like the bald man’s music. Soulless, gutless, with minimal touch and only passable because of its obvious superiority in flaunting the finer nuances on the technicalities of art.

Well, I’m no filmmaker; as a voyeur, I prefer George Romero over Orson Welles any day of the week. Hell, I’d take Kirk Hammett over Satriani in my sleep…buuuut, that’s just me. As for the Rosebud mystery, I (and many others) think it is the name of the sled, which the protagonist rode as a child. Something to do with innocence fading away in the midst of ambition, I think.

Dam. There goes the space for my reviews on Donnie Darko, Kingpin and Mister Lonely.  Greatest film ever..hmpfff…my ass.

alltheboyslovemandylane

All The Boys Love Mandy Lane: Now that’s how you make a slasher film. I really really enjoyed this film; mostly because it lacked any pretension of what it intended to do. Think clever, have fun. In fact, so coy Jonathan Levine’s All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is about its slasher status that it almost gives the entire story away every five minutes for the first thirty minutes. You’d be a fool not to identify the killer by the one-hour mark.

You can reconstruct the twin towers twice with the sheer number of times I have felt like a fool over the past two decades, but I must say this has been one of most rewarding. When details are finally revealed, I was as surprised as when Verbal Kent literally straightens his handicaps out and lights a cigarette in the final scene of Usual Suspects. In Mandy Lane, the director peppered the film with so many moments of genuine silence that I almost felt like swaying to the smell of blood that swallows the lives of six teenagers in a creepy farmhouse by the river. These distractions cleverly set me up for the climax as I wasn’t even sure if I completely understood the killer’s motive, by the time the end credits rolled. Having said that (because I just did), I’ll wager a fine sum to anyone who enjoys misfit cinema and who can stomach a bit of violence (some excruciating even) to actually give a shit about climax. No no no…that’s not how bad the climax is, that’s how friggin fantastic everything else is.

all-the-boys-love-mandy-lane-190-75

Here’s the premise…so, all the boys in high school love Mandy Lane (a steely performance by Amber Heard) and she doesn’t. You may not be entirely sure if she could, but you are more than likely to believe that she doesn’t want to. Five other teenagers invite her to a farmhouse party and before they can fall in love, they fall down…dead. Mutilated and put through a great deal of suffering. Now, everyone…please watch more indie films.

tupac

Bullet: I was disappointed that Tupac Shakur once again played a raving lunatic in front of the camera. Well, you might say it just was the way his character – Tank – was mapped out by the director, but the Pac enthusiast inside me wants to see the Machiavellian one act with subtlety; not just the maniacal vigour that could either put the fear of god on a ten-ton bull on crack or make it die laughing since crack kills a lot of people anyway. His music thrived on exploding in the faces of both fans and critics, which meant it sometimes crossed the line between silly machismo and the justifiable kind. As an MC, he had the talent to make us ignore it by rapping it out in a way only he could; as an actor, he just doesn’t. If indeed he is alive and partying with ODB and Ronnie Zant on some remote Island, I’d love for someone to sober him down and beg Michael Mann to redo Collateral with Pac instead of Jamie Foxx. There, I needed to get it off my chest.

bullet

Coming back to Julien Temple’s Bullet, it is Mr Burns-excellent. One of lost classics of the Nineties, if you ask me (and since you did). And by classics, I mean – slightly demented, gritty urban dramas about how men go insane in the face of their preconceived disposition about life. Mickey Rourke has always been a fantastic actor…he just wasn’t nominated enough to be noticed until The Wrestler.

In Bullet, he plays the lead role – a fallen son, an erstwhile brother, a hardened criminal and a worthy nemesis who goes to war with local druglord Tank. His brothers – a painter (Adrien Brody) and a Vietnam vet gone horribly mad (Ted Levine) – deliver some of the best lines in the film with their troubled lives acting as silhouettes to Mickey Rourke’s unabashed callousness. Special mention to Ted Levine for the greatness; very few actors can convincingly go insane for our pleasure. He did it twice (he also played Buffalo Bill in Silence Of The Lambs).

Oooh and if Joker had not said, “Madness is like gravity, all you need is a little push” for the tenth time on my DVD player this year, I would have gladly nominated Bullet for having the most satisfying closing sentence ever in modern American cinema.

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