Saturday, July 24, 2010
With a densely intelligent collection of love songs, Rubber Soul confronted a variety of issues: the cost of romantic desire (“I’m Looking Through You”), the power of love to heal (“The Word”), as well as to hurt (“Girl”); contemplation (“In My Life”); and the deep regrets of loss (“Nowhere Man”). On the record, The Beatles broadened their musical identity, too, by introducing an original interpretation of classic R&B (specifically the Memphis Stax soul sound) while refusing to become defined by black music (as many other British blues bands had). The Beatles instead defined their own interpretation of American black music.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
This is probably the most irresponsible and likely one of the most morally indefensible bits of film ever produced by a major filmmaker, and though I hate to admit this, it is a lot of fun. It's one shot and lasts only eight minutes and forty seconds, but it is the ultimate adrenaline rush for anybody who likes to drive fast. Jeremy Clarkson, the man/boy on Top Gear, said this about the film: "it makes Bullitt look like a cartoon."
The film, C'était un rendez-vous, whose title translates "It Was A Date," consists of a very fast car, with a camera attached to its bumper, racing through the early morning (5:30am) streets of Paris at ridiculous, life-threatening speeds. Claude Lelouch, a fast-car nut (in his best known film, A Man and A Woman, the lead male is a race car driver), did this piece of stunt filmmaking without permission or warning. Supposedly interested in testing a new gyro device to steady film images in 'jittery' environments (this was prior to the invention of the Steadicam), he decided to mount the device, a camera with one 10-minute reel of film inside on the front bumper of his car. He had a route mapped out -- allegedly there was an assistant at one blind corner to radio him of any obstacles -- got into the car and gunned it. The route takes him racing down the Avenue Foch towards the Arc de Triomphe, and finishes several kilometres later at the Basilique de Sacré-Cœur. It ends with, of course, a girl awaiting his arrival. He steps out of the car, they embrace and fin.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Once again Burnett leaves his mark on one of the most energizing groups to come out of the United States, Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Known mostly as a contemporary Gospel group, this group features a unique blend of blues-based funk and traditional gospel music that's fused to perfection. Unlike a lot of gospel groups featuring a strong Hammond B-3, this band has the sharp-edge of a slide guitar driving the musical bus. All you have to do is climb aboard and testify.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
As most of the TV-watching universe is waiting patiently for Mad Men to launch its fourth season next Sunday, the third season of AMC’s ‘other show’ has come and gone.
Breaking Bad tells the story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher who, after an unexpected diagnosis with terminal lung cancer, turns to cooking crystal meth. The show was created by Vince Gilligan (The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen), and, along with Mad Men, it is one of only two original series ever broadcast on AMC. (A third show, the promising conspiracy series, Rubicon, will premiere this August.) After production on its first season was cut short due to the 2007-2008 Writer’s Guild of America strike, Breaking Bad returned a year later with a sophomore season that took an interesting and likeable TV show and elevated it to one of the best shows on television. Everyone I know who’s watched it has become hooked. But that’s the catch: you’ve got to watch it. And there are many reasons why you probably haven’t.
First of all, you don’t normally go to AMC for original programming. AMC has only the two shows, both with compressed 13-episode seasons, and they understandably don’t air them at the same time. To watch Breaking Bad, you’ve got to seek it out. And from a distance, it is easy to see why you might not have bothered. It’s a basic cable show about a middle-class school teacher who turns to manufacturing drugs, played by an actor best known for his portrayal of Hal, the father on FOX’s Malcolm in the Middle for 7 seasons. It sounds like a low-estrogen take on Showtime’s Weeds, but without any of the sex appeal. This assessment, while perhaps understandable, could not be more misleading.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
On March 4th this year, Critics at Large's David Churchill wrote about horror author Stephen King’s latest novel, Under the Dome. He rightly praised King’s vivid writing and lauded the book for being a trenchant, relevant look at what happens when society cuts democratic corners by utilizing a ruthless strongman to do the dirty work it has decided is necessary for its survival. David is right about that, but I think Under the Dome is also indicative of how America has changed and become more polarized than ever before in its recent turbulent history, even more so, I suspect, than back in the 60s, when the generation gap reigned supreme.
Under the Dome, which has just come out in trade paperback, and runs to a huge 1,000 plus pages, has a premise that is brilliant simplicity itself but is anything but simple. As the book begins, the small Maine town of Chester’s Mill has been suddenly encased under a dome, which has cut it off from the outside world. A few of the townsfolk try to resist those who want to capitalize on this unexplained event in order to run the town the way they always felt it should be managed. But very quickly things fall apart and in a manner which makes Lord of the Flies seem Pollyannaish.
This is one really scary novel - a pervasive sense of dread is manifest in Under the Dome - that's up there with King’s best horror: Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Stand, his truly frightening novella The Mist, It and (most of) Cell. His usual strengths, the superb characterization (you always believe the protagonists in King’s books), descriptive prowess (Chester’s Mill comes alive in a way that you can practically touch) and imaginative plotting (Under the Dome is both great horror and ingenious science fiction) are in evidence but this time, there's something new percolating under the surface of his gripping novel: a disquieting political subtext that has bubbled up from current realities.