Saturday, April 04, 2009

This is one of those wonderfully tactile films from the ‘70s, like Charley Varrick or Electra Glide in Blue, that seems kinetically, electrically connected to the landscapes on which its dramas take place. The soaking up of the spectacular Panavision vistas, deepened by darkening clouds, a line of trucks skating across the bottom of the frame silhouetted in the dusk, is as dramatic as any action set piece in the movie, many of which are shot and edited with an identifiable precision and poetry that is clearly derived from Peckinpah’s sensibility (this despite testimony to the effect that James Coburn and others were called in to direct shots and sequences when Peckinpah arrived on set too drunk and/or deranged to do the job himself). Convoy is a pedal-to-the-heavy-metal, meat-and-potatoes Hal Needham action flick directed by an artist, or a man still enough of one to elevate even its deadliest, hoariest conceits-- Ernest Borgnine’s mustache-twirling devilry as evil sheriff Dirty Lyle, who rides Rubber Duck’s ass straight to hell; Rubber Duck’s populist-Christ resurrection that occurs five minutes after the movie should have ended; and the entire nostril-flaring presence of Ali McGraw-- into classifiably forgivable sins, so spectacular is the movie’s milieu, its dusty testimony to the desperate beauty of the road, of trucks, of desperate, disillusioned men...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Helen Levitt

"The artist's task is not to alter the world as the eye sees it into a world of aesthetic reality, but to perceive the aesthetic reality within the actual world, and to make an undisturbed and faithful record of the instant in which this movement of creativeness achieves its most expressive crystallization..."

James Agee

Tree Featured In 'The Deer Hunter' Dies | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
After shooting to stardom in the late 1970s with its scene-stealing turn as a stately old-growth conifer in The Deer Hunter, the tree soon cemented its reputation as one of Hollywood's most dependable character actors.

According to its publicist, the woody plant and beloved fixture of nearly 40 feature films died of complications relating to adelgid beetles and lightning.

"It will be missed," Deer Hunter costar Robert De Niro said. "We took a shine to each other immediately. That tree taught me a lot about acting and about life..."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pandit Pran Nath - Midnight: Raga Malkauns

"The midnight raga Malkauns is traditionally said to describe a yogi beset by tempting demons while meditating. Recorded in 1976 in a SoHo studio in New York, Pran Nath's version is unspeakably moving as he slowly chants the composition "Hare Krishna Govinda Ram" over and over, his voice winding in stretched-out, subtly nuanced glissandos that leave you begging for the next note. The 62 minute recording sounds completely traditional in its adherence to the slow, minimal style of the Kirana school of Indian classical music which Pran Nath belonged to, while containing in the sound itself everything that was happening in the city that year, the same year that Scorsese's Taxi Driver hit the movie houses. Pran Nath's voice and Young's production turn the city into a sacred modern hyperspace, full of tension and beauty, in which anything, from Krishna to Son of Sam, can manifest..."

though not seen by this blog, tomorrow night on TCM a UK jazz version of "Othello", All Night Long--with the late great Patrick McGoohan as a drumming Iago!--seems well worth catching...

much to see & ponder at New Star Books' refurbished website, also (FREE) PDF's of my book "The Age of Briggs & Stratton" & George Stanley's stunning "Vancouver: A Poem", which is nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Prize...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

great essay on Warren Oates:
All of this is Andy Kaufman's fault.

Remember how square, how innocent, we used to be? We were sad when movie characters had nervous breakdowns. It made us sick when Travis Bickle shot that guy's fingers off, or when Divine ate dog mess. We didn't know if Kaufman was for real or not, which is why he was so great, and why his comedy worked.

But finally, Andy Kaufman won. He conquered comedy. He vanquished performance. He murdered entertainment. That great, strange feeling you had the first time you saw him can never be recaptured, because eventually he educated you and made you too smart. You bit the apple. The scales fell from your eyes.

Who can bring us back to Paradise? Who can purge us of our sins? Who can put us right? Who can remind us what humans were like, back when there were humans? Who can turn us into an audience, rather than a bunch of actors playing the part of an audience?

Only Warren Oates. Warren Oates will give you the willies, and there is no theory that can explain him away, or tell you what you're feeling, or how you're supposed to feel, when you're watching him work. Warren Oates transforms the most ironic, knowing docent into an utter square...

Once Upon a Time in the West (2-Disc Special Edition)

greatest movie ever made--for six & half bucks!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Berlin Beatet Bestes, a blog "mainly about odd German 45 rpm records"...

The Cult Following of Wagner's "Ring" Cycle
Within a few years of the composer’s death in 1883, the mania had spread so decisively that Wagner nights at Coney Island’s 3,000-seat Brighton Beach pavilion regularly sold out...

Age of Briggs & Stratton Watch: Creative Drunk Gets DUI on Motorized Bar Stool
Unit #1 was heading west bound on Kelly Lane. Unit #1 attempted to turn around (180 degrees), and back down Kelly east bound. As Unit #1 began its turn, it rolled over and the operator was injured."

"Note: Unit #1 was a home made [sic] motor vehicle, a bar stool attached to a frame with a lawn mower attached."

"At this point I noticed that Mr. Wygle's eye's [SIC] were very blood shot and were glassy in appearance."

"I asked him what happened, Mr. Wygle stated, 'I wrecked my bar stool.'"

"I asked Mr. Wygle how much alcohol he had to drink, he said, 'a lot.'"

"I asked if the bar stool even ran and said, 'yes, it will go around 38 miles per hour....'"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Local trees

from a rather good Onion series on country music: Shotgun Willie’s concept albums, or The voice of imperfect man must now be made manifest---

Heavenly Voice: You do know why you’re here.
Willie Nelson: Yes. There is great confusion on Earth and The Power That Is has concluded the following: Perfect Man has visited Earth already and his voice was heard. The voice of Imperfect Man must now be made manifest, and I have been selected as the most likely candidate.
Heavenly Voice: Yes. The time is April, therefore you, a Taurus, must go.
Second Heavenly Voice: To be born under the same sign twice gives strength.
Other Heavenly Voice: And this strength, combined with wisdom and love, is the key.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Children of Paradise on TCM late tonight...

Jim Webb @ Glenn Greenwald -
Let's start with a premise that I don't think a lot of Americans are aware of. We have 5% of the world's population; we have 25% of the world's known prison population. We have an incarceration rate in the United States, the world's greatest democracy, that is five times as high as the average incarceration rate of the rest of the world. There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice. . . .

The elephant in the bedroom in many discussions on the criminal justice system is the sharp increase in drug incarceration over the past three decades. In 1980, we had 41,000 drug offenders in prison; today we have more than 500,000, an increase of 1,200%. The blue disks represent the numbers in 1980; the red disks represent the numbers in 2007 and a significant percentage of those incarcerated are for possession or nonviolent offenses stemming from drug addiction and those sorts of related behavioral issues. . . .

In many cases these issues involve people’s ability to have proper counsel and other issues, but there are stunning statistics with respect to drugs that we all must come to terms with. African-Americans are about 12% of our population; contrary to a lot of thought and rhetoric, their drug use rate in terms of frequent drug use rate is about the same as all other elements of our society, about 14%. But they end up being 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of those sentenced to prison by the numbers that have been provided by us. . . .

Another piece of this issue that I hope we will address with this National Criminal Justice Commission is what happens inside our prisons. . . . We also have a situation in this country with respect to prison violence and sexual victimization that is off the charts and we must get our arms around this problem. We also have many people in our prisons who are among what are called the criminally ill, many suffering from hepatitis and HIV who are not getting the sorts of treatment they deserve.

Importantly, what are we going to do about drug policy - the whole area of drug policy in this country?