Wednesday, December 30, 2009

these immortal souls...

Rowland S. Howard with These Immortal Souls performing two songs he wrote, "Marry Me (Lie! Lie!)" and "Hide"...



rowland s. howard covers

Two personal favorites, Rowland S. Howard covering The Gun Club's "Mother of Earth" and Billy Idol's "White Wedding"...



r.i.p. rowland s. howard...


I was super sad to hear about the death of Rowland S. Howard today. One of my all time favorite guitar players, Howard was a member of the Boys Next Door (he wrote their hit "Shivers," which has appeared in the films STRANGE BEHAVIOR and DOGS IN SPACE) and the Birthday Party, Crime & the City Solution and These Immortal Souls. He collaborated with Nikki Sudden and Lydia Lunch, among others, and played with Fad Gadget, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Barry Adamson, A.C. Marias, Honeymoon in Red, Henry Rollins, Jeremy Gluck, Einsturzende Neubauten and, most recently, HTRK (whom he also produced). His first solo album, "Teenage Snuff Film," came out in 2000, and his second, "Pop Crimes," was released this year to wide acclaim. Howard was 50.

This Sunday on Modern Products I'll be paying tribute to Howard with 2 hours of his music (Sunday January 3rd 2-4pm on www.eastvillageradio.com)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

bad lieutenant- port of call...


So, last year around this time I did sort of an obsessive run down of as many films released in 2008 as I could. It was pretty funny to basically marathon watch as many recent flicks as I could get my hands on and then write about them, although generally just capsule reviews, nothing terribly in depth. Hopefully it was kind of fun to read too, I dunno. This year, as you can probably guess if you've been following the blog at all, I've been feeling much less motivated. I guess because it's the end of the decade (and how the fuck did that happen? It kind of snuck up on me) a lot of people are feeling compelled to make lists, to the point where I don't really feel any particular need to do that (though I did make best of year/decade music lists that will be posted soon on www.eastvillageradio.com, so if you care what I think about music, you can read those there). I am kind of trying to get caught up with some of the horror movies I missed theatrically this year, and I'll probably write some about some of those. For any number of reasons, some of which I've written about on Negative Pleasure, I just do not have my shit together right now, and I really want to write stuff and post stuff, but I'm kind of not feeling it. Maybe I'm just being a lazy ass. Time will tell, I suppose...

I don't know if I really have a favorite film of 2009, but if I did, it would probably be Werner Herzog's BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL, which is funny, because as soon as I heard about that film being made, and first saw the trailer, I was convinced that it was going to totally suck. Although I really love Herzog, I just didn't have enough faith in him that he could successfully remake as film that didn't need to be remade as much as BAD LIEUTENANT. There were just so many reason not to make this movie. BAD LIEUTENANT, for one, is kind of a great film, it's really powerful and emotionally jarring. It's also not that old, less than 20 years. Watching it now, there's nothing terribly dated about it, it still feels pretty contemporary. And of course being an Abel Ferrara film, it's the work of a cinema artist with a unique vision, in fact looking at Ferrara's work and life, it feels like an incredibly personal film for him. Though there are many crime films about redemption, as BAD LIEUTENANT is, it's a pretty unique movie and a very effective one. I had to wonder what a remake could really have to offer that the original was lacking.

Then, of course, there's Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage just sucks. He makes horrible movies and acts badly in them. NATIONAL TREASURE, THE WICKER MAN remake, GHOST RIDER, NEXT, KNOWING...He's become a camp figure, really I think a lot of people see his movies now for the unintentional laughs. Occasionally he'll do a good flick (THE WEATHER MAN was one) and actually be good in it, but for the most part he's really just a symptom of the increasing decay of cinema, his movies are just such shit, they're so aggressively shit, there's no artistry involved, it's not like they're trying to make good movies and failing, stuff like GHOST RIDER and KNOWING are just cynically incoherent by-the-numbers lowest common denominator shit.

The trailer for BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL was extremely unpromising. Mostly, it seemed to be about how "funny" Nicolas Cage's awful performance was going to be, acting all bug eyed and crazed, as in THE WICKER MAN remake. The original BAD LIEUTENANT isn't particularly funny, but the comedy isn't missed, and the addition of it to the remake seemed like kind of an insult to the original, taking something powerful and reducing it to ridiculousness, perhaps not a remake as much as a parody, and though it seemed to soon for a remake, far too much time had passed for a successful parody, if one was ever needed at all. The self-importance of Ferrara's film was not so much that it required being taken down a notch, rather it was a serious, uncompromising movie that presented a challenging viewing experience.

As the release of BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL approached, the press surrounding it was equally unpromising. Most of the media attention seemed to be focused on one scene in which Cage's character hallucinates some lizards, and how insistent Herzog was that this scene remain in the finished film. It seemed really trivial and self-consciously "quirky," and the way in which it was approached was uncomfortably smirky and smarmy, like, if that was all anybody had to say about the project, did it really have much to offer otherwise?

Despite these reservations, I went and saw BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL anyway. It was still a Werner Herzog film, something I should have kept in mind from the beginning, because Herzog doesn't really make bad films, or at least hasn't made any, certainly nothing as bad as this movie seemed like it would be. BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL is kind of a great film. It's definite a Herzog film, somewhat subtly incorporating the director's overriding theme of the conflict between humanity and nature, the inevitability of nature despite manmade constructs to deny or overpower it, within a pretty stellar urban crime narrative. Set in New Orleans, and opening during Hurricane Katrina, Herzog's film shows the natural world as constantly threatening to overwhelm the world of man.

Herzog takes elements of the story and some of the scenes of the original BAD LIEUTENANT and makes them his own. Ferrara's film deals largely with redemption, it's a film heavily informed by Catholocism, very much in the vein of Martin Scorsese's MEAN STREETS (both films of course star Harvey Keitel). Herzog is less concerned with the spiritual life of his characters, Cage's Lt. McDonagh is more concerned with saving his ass than saving his soul. His failures have to do with the constructs of man's world, in essence the denial of the natural world, drugs, prostitution, gambling...Always the world of nature is encroaching upon civilization, the aforementioned iguanas, a crocodile crawling along the freeway...Perhaps you could say this is a film about control, the impossibility of control, since no matter what we do to create order, there is always some form of chaos threatening to overturn the balance.

Heavy themes aside, BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL is also a very entertaining film. Thankfully not as campy as the trailer suggested, it is still often very funny, with the very sly, sardonic humor often suggested at but rarely full articulated in Herzog's other work. Cage's character's mania certainly reaches some heights but fortunately never the level of self-parody that marks other recent Cage performances. In one of the films funniest, but in a way also most poignant moments, McDonagh, high on crack, responds to a shooting by instructing the gunmen to shoot again, because, "His soul is still dancing." Herzog cuts to the man's soul, breakdancing across the room (it plays much better on the screen than I'm describing it, one of the hallucinated iguanas also effective makes an appearance in this sequence).

In a nutshell, I shouldn't have doubted Herzog. I'm not going to rush out and start seeing every Nicolas Cage movie now, but obviously he can still pull off an effective, controlled performance under the right director. BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL is really vital, vibrant filmmaking, full of life and though, depth, humor, entertainment, meaning, resonance. See it twice if you're not a jerk...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

more of the same...

Here's another Suicide Squad image, by Luke McDonnell, just cuz...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

bleh...

I've been thinking about writing something all night, but I'm still just not feeling the spirit, or whatever. Instead, here are some pictures of Deadshot and Suicide Squad from the 80s...




I'll write something soon, I don't know what my deal is lately, I just haven't had the drive, honestly being sick a couple of months ago kind of took the wind out my sails, I've been having a hard time getting back on track, plus a lot of the energy I do have has been going into the class I'm teaching. Excuses, excuses, right? But for real, it's been totally frustrating, because I've felt like doing things, I just haven't had the focus. I guess I did do those comics I posted, so that's something, I dunno, I guess I'm kind of down, like, depressed, or whatever. But it's cool, y'know, it's temporary. This is just, like, a phase, a mood. It'll pass, things'll get going again, on this blog and elsewhere in my life, so yeah, it feels kinda good to vent a little, let it out a little, but I won't bore you too much with my mopey bullshit. I guess I'm optimistic, or at least I'm going to pretend to be optimistic, or something...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

gak...

I was going to write a review of BAD LIEUTENANT- PORT OF CALL, but I have nothing insightful to say today, so bleh...(the movie was good)

Friday, December 4, 2009

we wuz scumbags...

Here's my new comic. This one is "based on a true story," mostly. Click the pics for larger, easier-to-read images...





Hope you liked it. More stuff later...

Monday, November 30, 2009

comix (by me)...

Damn, it's been a couple of weeks since I posted. Where does the time go? For real. Anyway, one of the projects I've been working on lately is drawing comics. I don't really have any training in illustration, not to make excuses, this is just sort of something I thought I'd try for fun. Well, not just for fun, for like being creative and stuff, or something. Anyway, here are the first few pieces I've done, some one-pagers. I've got another longer story that I've done that I'll post here soon, probably later in the week, and a couple of more in the works. Enjoy...




More to come....

Friday, November 13, 2009

murder by contract...


I find it much more difficult to write about things that I like rather than things that I dislike. When I don't like something, it tends to be for fairly concrete reasons. It's fairly easy to pick out a film's flaws, they tend to be right on the surface, or very near it. And disliking things is funny, and funny. Who doesn't enjoy taking to task a work of art or media that doesn't manage to live up to what it promises? Especially when that work gives off a sense of self-importance, or otherwise just seems to take itself too seriously. Over the 2 or 3 years I've been doing this blog, that's mostly what I've found myself drawn to, the ridiculous and the sublime.


With things that I like, the reasons tend to be more ephemeral and harder to specifically pin down. At the heart of many of these things is an aura, an essence, a certain purity (sometimes maybe an impurity). It's hard to establish a standing criteria of what makes these things work. In a way, it's almost better to leave them not so thoroughly examined. Left alone, they seem mysterious and magical. I mean, things are wonderful specifically because they inspire wonder. It's sort of like pinning down a live butterfly. You could do it, but in the process, you'd probably kill it, and that just doesn't feel as good as watching it fly around. I mean, that isn't always the case 100% of the time, but I think in a great many cases it hold true (I'd just like to take a second to note that, as far as I can recall, I've never purposefully killed a butterfly).


This is all kind of a roundabout way of saying that I absolutely fucking loved the movie MURDER BY CONTRACT. From 1958, this is a late-period noir and a fascinating cathexis of the evolution of cinema style from the 1940s and 50s into the 1960s. In many ways it reminded me of another later noir, BLAST OF SILENCE, from 1961, which has enjoyed a bit of a revival over the past couple of years. MURDER BY CONTRACT is tough and mean like many of the best of the genre, but it's also smart, not just intelligently written, but intelligently made. It's elusive and at times somewhat confounding, not everything about all the characters is revealed, some things are left to mystery. The dialogue splits the difference between the stylized back-and-forth banter of earlier noir and a more natural style that certainly wasn't the norm in mainstream film for many years to come. Even in non-mainstream film, MURDER BY CONTRACT predates the extreme naturalism of John Cassavetes SHADOWS by a year. Despite the confluence of styles, it never feels especially stilted, the different qualities blend together well.


The story is fairly simple. Vince Edwards plays a fledgling contract killer who's sent out to kill the witness in an upcoming trial. Edwards seems like a real cool customer, very calculating if somewhat eccentric. He's also a bit of an understated egomaniac, clearly believing himself to be above it all (one of his handlers sarcastically refers to him as "Superman"), yet he's thrown for a loop when his discovers that his target is a woman. The hit begins to appear jinxed when several of Edwards' complex murder plots prove unsuccessful. By the end, his character is a bit more desperate than even he thought possible, and naturally things go from bad to worse.


Perhaps it's a personal failing, an inability or unwillingness to really show enthusiasm, but I feel kind of uncomfortable going on about MURDER BY CONTRACT's beautiful, yet simple, black and white cinematography (shot by Lucien Ballard, of Otto Preminger's LAURA and Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH), or how great its unusual music score was (by Perry Botkin). Maybe I'm just an asshole who likes taking potshots at easy targets but blanches at the thought of actually expressing admiration for a work of art that has moved me in some way. I dunno. Director Irving Lerner made about a dozen films between the 40s and the 60s, then worked in TV and later became an editor. One of his last credits is as supervising editor on Scorsese's NEW YORK, NEW YORK, which was dedicated to him (he died in 1976, before the film came out). He also worked with Anthony Mann on GOD'S LITTLE ACRE and MEN IN WAR (one could draw a connection between Mann's noir films and MURDER BY CONTRACT).


So anyway, that's my uncomfortable attempt at writing about something that I liked. Something that I loved. See MURDER FOR CONTRACT, it's out on DVD.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

t-shirts...

I don't really remember a lot of the t-shirts I wore as a kid, but looking back at these old photos, I guess I was pretty pop culture forward even then. Anyway, thought it would be cute to share these...

Superman...

Superman...

Superman...

The Incredible Hulk...

Cookie Monster...

Star Wars...

Ewoks (also, how totally 80s is that girl in the photo with me? I think she was our across the street neighbor, one of my child hood best friends. She looks like a kid version of Pat Benetar in that outfit)...

Ewoks...

Mickey Mouse (that's my dad in the photo with me, I like the safety orange trashcan behind us, also note the vintage Diet Pepsi can in the foreground)...

Anyway, I'm finally over the flu or whatever it was that I've had for the past month, and I have a bit of time on my hands, so hopefully I'll be able to write more often, last month was kind of a blur. I'm sort of dying to write and do more creative things. Stay tuned...