Sunday, January 25, 2015

And once again...

I don't feel like forcing it right now, so there won't be much from me over the next while. I'm working on a big Chris Desjardins interview, but I have no passion for writing at the moment. I have a couple of outstanding commitments, a couple things I might do for fast cash, and at least one project that is really important to me that I want to do something with (my Ryszard Bugajski interview) but I'm feeling more and more like it really doesn't matter what people write about anything, anyhow. It feels like a silly hobby, a distraction. Plus I need to make MONEY, folks... need to get my life-shit together, and writing has never been a truly reliable source of income for me. Besides, I've kind of done what I wanted to do when I started to interview people a little over ten years ago: I've gotten to interview most of my living musical heroes and favourite filmmakers and a few really interesting people besides and there's not much left in the way of worlds I want to conquer in the realm of journalism (it would have been nice to have a cover feature for the Straight but if my Cronenberg piece loses out to an article on the new head of UBC, I'm obviously shit out of luck). I have a backlog of unpublished stuff that I've done, too - things that got back-burnered when I stopped writing for this magazine or that, that can keep me happily distracted if that's what I need. Really, really, really just not feeling it.

I ain't going to declare the blog dead, exactly. I'll be back. But I got nothing to say right now. You're better off finding me on Facebook, like everyone fuckin' else.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Some Youtube videos I've shot and uploaded

I've uploaded a sampling of Youtube videos from shows I've been at - like this one from the Rebel Spell's performance at Adstock this past summer. There's about fifteen vids up all told now - the Flesh Eaters, Mudhoney, Red Herring, Danny Shmanny, Chris Arnett, the Furies, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Wett Stilettos, David M., Carsick Cars, and a Gun Club cover band called Sex Beat. And don't forget my clip of Roky Erickson in Vancouver, which my girlfriend uploaded for me when I was still a noob at these matters. It's still the only video from that show!

Friday, January 16, 2015

RIP Lorna Towers of the New Creation

I rather love the New Creation's Troubled - the Vancouver Christian garage rock record that has attracted so many fans since its resurfacing, having been lost for so many years. I wrote about the unexpected follow up to that album, A Unique Disaster, here, and have been priviliged to count the male of that band, Chris Towers, as a friend - an earnest, likable, and decent man with a rich inner life, passionate and sympathetic political views, and a very interesting musical sensibility. I'm delighted to have gotten him to perform at a birthday event a few years ago - see here for more on that. His Mom, the band's other lead vocalist and songwriter, was always somewhat intimidating to me, by comparison: a conservative, outspoken, opinonated Christian and a fan of the Left Behind series, the few times I met her I was definitely at a disadvantage, since I neither wanted to argue with her beliefs nor submit to her authority and be chastened for my own views and lifestyle (which I doubt she'd have approved of much). Still, she was a bright, creative, charismatic character, who led a very interesting life, had a unique and engaging singing voice, and her songs - I gotta hold this one up as the masterpiece, positing a massive conspiracy to fake a God-denying archaelogical record - were far more eccentric, in the best of all possible ways, than I think she could possibly have realized (my impression from talking to her on a few occasions was that she definitely thought herself to be one of the "normal" ones, and the rest of us weird; I suppose I did her a disservice by concealing my own strangeness from her, so we could really see the other). In any event, I'm very sad to report on her passing, which Chris Towers informed me of a few days ago (she passed on January 13th; Chris alerted me by email to say that "She went peacefully with all but one of her children beside her." I wanted to give it a couple of days before I reported on it. My condolences to her large family and many fans. Long live the New Creation!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

On the novels of Chris D., part one: Mother's Worry; plus the Hookers of Maple Ridge Part Two

So here I am, reading Mother's Worry, a sleazy crime novel written by Chris D. My bookmark is a ticket stub from the Seattle Flesheaters show, where I got to briefly shake Chris' hand and pick up six of his novels (which he packed especially for me! Thanks, Chris!). I'm happy to report I'm very pleased with the investment. It's proving to be a great read, and I'm looking forward to reading all six of his novels over the next little while (the one he recommends as a starting point is actually No Evil Star but the first page of Mother's Worry sunk a deeper hook).

I actually wasn't entirely sure I'd enjoy Chris' writing, truth be known. It's not like I love everything he's done unequivocally. I have never really gotten into Divine Horsemen, say, and I thought his movie, I Pass For Human, was okay/ interesting but nothing overwhelming. Besides, I'm a Nick Cave fan, too, and couldn't get more than 50 pages into his first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel, when I tried it. But Mother's Worry, so far, is totally entertaining. Violent crime story with lots of graphic gore, sex and twistedness; I'm not a third of the way through and there's been at least six murders (some graphically described);  a military brawl; a car theft; a liquor store robbery; one horny Mexican prostitute getting her pussy eaten by a gangster in the street; a multiple murder and a gun-vs-knife fight inside a brothel; and a fight inside a morgue wagon, where our antihero has been trying to hide out amongst some corpses. There's also - oh, let's see - a gay DEA agent giving a blowjob to a psycho, plus ample description of mescal, rye, and blood spattering everywhere (there's some puking, too). Oh, and our hero has just fallen off a train, covered in blood, a bag full of stolen money tucked into his pants, on a mission to confront his unfaithful girlfriend, whom he's just seen in a Polaroid sucking another man's cock. This is a fun read, maybe a little bit knowing/ winking to those of us who have digested our share of Jim Thompson, Richard Stark, David Goodis, James M. Cain, and so forth - some of Desjardin's literary antecedents... and maybe the perversity of some episodes is a little too-sick-for-realism, a little on the so-farfetched-it's-kinda-funny side, like there's a smidgen of David Lynch, too, in Chris' toolkit, where you can only just sort of grin and shake your head (and keep reading)... But all-in-all it's a deeply fun book to read. I gather the next section is going to focus on the main male character's girlfriend, who in his absence has fallen into a life of stripping, drug abuse, and maybe hooking (remains to be seen but I'm expecting it)...

Which brings me to a brief follow up to On the Hookers of Maple Ridge. One of my more insensitive posts here, maybe, but when the street I have to cross to get home from my aging Mom's turned out to be the stroll for some somewhat worse-for-wear smalltown prostitutes, it made me kind of cranky. It's enough to run the gauntlet of homeless and street crazies in the city, trying to get to and from work, each one wearing down your compassion a bit more, making you feel that much more depressed about Vancouver, its priorities, and your own selfishness. That's bad enough: I don't want to have hookers hopefully saying hello to me on a regular basis, when I'm just trying to get home. And particularly not WEATHERED ones! I mean, call me a pig if you like but if these were $500-a-night supermodel hookers I might not feel as cranky about having to visibly project my total disinterest as I walk by them; I might even feel flattered by their attention, feel something more like "as if I could afford YOU," instead of what I generally feel, which is closer to, "as if I would ever pay money to have sex with you! Give me a fuckin' break!" (I never say this ALOUD, mind you, as I plow past them. But they're probably pretty good at reading body language...).

Anyhow, I wanted to follow up that bit of prickishness on my part (pardon my recap of it). I don't LIKE myself for having that feeling, but it's there. However, after a couple of years of this, my attitude is changing a bit. I still don't want to have sex with the local working girls, natch, but I suddenly feel a whole lot more compassion for them, BECAUSE...

...I have discovered that some of them go to work BEFORE I DO. Just this morning, in fact - this very cold, dark, wet BC morning, on the way to the train station at 6:25 A-motherfucking-M, there was a workin' girl standing on the corner, hoping someone would come by. No cars anywhere on the street, and the only other pedestrians were a guy walking the other direction and a drunken middle-aged woman yelling and cursing at someone unseen as she staggered around one of the streetcorners adjacent to the local bar. At least the workin' girl in question wasn't wearing high heels and a miniskirt, she was bundled up in a parka with furry boots on, but it was still kind of heartbreaking to see her standing there so early, on such a shitty morn. I almost wanted to ask her how long she'd been there, when she'd woken up, how much money she makes at 6:25 AM in Maple Ridge in mid-January. I wanted to buy her a cup of coffee or something, except I also really do NOT want to get involved in her life, her problems, or get her hopes up that I'm going to give her money (or try, god help me, to "rescue" her), because, sorry, I'm not gonna. But the thought was there: what's the fucking point of being a prostitute if youi've got to wake up at 6 in the fucking morning and stand in the cold and the rain? Just get a job in a fucking factory, for godsake! How can it possibly be worse...?

Of course, she may not have all that much choice in the matter at present, but that's even sadder. So okay, workin' girls, I'm going to try to adjust my crankiness meter where you're concerned and cut you a bit of slack. I still am going to walk stolidly by, ignoring you, lest you get your hopes up or waste your attentions on someone who is not going to give you money, but that's meant as a sort of kindness - the most I can muster at present. I hope you're making more money than I am, I really do. Somehow I kinda doubt it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The continuing saga of the death of print media: Xtra West to go fully digital

Wow. Xtra - including Vancouver's Xtra West - is going to cease its print editions, is going fully digital. I've written for them whenever something cool and queer-themed crossed my path (like when those Dicks reissues happened, I talked to Gary Floyd for them). I'm a bit of an odd fit - "I'm not queer, only strange" - so I haven't been exactly a regular, but I've always felt well-respected and well-treated by them, and I've enjoyed a lot of their articles (though I haven't read them very often since I stopped living in the West End). Crazy that the print edition won't be out there anymore, they're a pretty notable part of the Vancouver landscape.

Another video uploaded: the Flesh Eaters at Neumos', Seattle

Check it out! Amazing night, and though it was more of a stand-there-and-listen-to-it kinda show, there was quite the happy little mosh pit for the encores (powerhouse performances of "Pony Dress" and the Gun Club's "She's Like Heroin To Me.") Thanks to David Ames for the ride there and back and the good company (and hi to Ford Pier, spotted in the audience...).

I didn't shoot video of any of the best songs in the evening ("Satan's Stomp," say) but I might upload one more clip... Great stuff from Mudhoney, too!

The Company You Keep, Gabrielle Rose, and so forth (BC-film related)

If I had the resources, I would hire a t-shirt shop to make Gabrielle Rose a "made in BC" t-shirt with a line drawing of the map of the province on it. Not because she's from BC - she is - but because in more than one instance its her presence in a film that twigs me to the fact that it was shot here. I mean, I don't exactly have a keen eye for these matters: there are dozens of times that I've watched a made in Vancouver film and not realized it was shot here until midway through when some glaringly obvious landmark pops up, like when Arnold Schwarzenegger drives a truck through the Simon Fraser University campus in The Sixth Day or when Save On Meats pops up in Dreamcatcher - but more than any single building or landscape, the handiest signifier that a movie was made in BC for me is the presence of Gabrielle Rose.

Case-in-point: The Company You Keep. By me, this is an under-appreciated, entirely workable (but not particularly remarkable) film with an excellent cast and an interesting story, involving the fallout of 1960's radicalism and its lingering relevance today. Before Ms. Rose appears, I hadn't been certain that it was filmed in BC; there's a scene set in what sure LOOKS like the Granville Street Skytrain station - the eastbound platform with those distinctive red railings - but all train stations look a bit alike, and I had otherwise been seduced by the film's use of Vancouver and the outlying area to represent about five different American cities, so I wasn't sure. But there she is, with maybe one line of dialogue, playing Brendan Gleeson's wife, standing by him as Shia LaBoeuf, as an ambitious journalist, questions him in his role in possibly helping a couple of 60's radicals from the Weather Underground go underground. She might as well walk on screen holding a placard saying "Welcome to BC!" And that's a good thing, I always like these moments (it's about the fifth US film shot here where she's served exactly the same function. Another I recall was Uwe Boll's mediocre, bizarrely expensive Lord of the Rings knockoff, In the Name of the King).  

Anyhow, The Company You Keep is by no means a bad movie. If there wasn't such a glut of available cinema (I hereby acknowledge my debt to David M. for my use of the word "glut") it might even get a recommendation from me, as a thinking-person's thriller and decent drama, well-assembled by director Robert Redford. But for a Vancouver film buff, I can think of no better reason to see it than the fact there are some very big name actors in the film, and it's pretty fun to know they all converged on Vancouver for the shoot. I wonder where Nick Nolte hung out when he wasn't on set?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Robert Crumb on baiting religious fanatics, the death of American journalism, and so forth

Robert Crumb speaks on the Charlie Hebdo shootings. His comic response is out there on the internet but you're going to have to seek it out for yourself; it's not that offensive, actually - it sounds way worse than it is - but no wayyyyy am I going to put myself in the firing line on this one!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The death toll rises: Robert Stone, Francesco Rosi, Rod Taylor

Sigh... not going to blog about murdered French cartoonists... Just going to briefly note my sadness to learn that Robert Stone has died, at age 77. I didn't actually like the last two novels of his I read (Damascus Gate and Bay of Souls), but Dog Soldiers is my go-to if anyone asks me my favourite novel; a tale of corruption and confusion in 1960's America, it features a sentence that I often tell people is my favourite in English literature (but I'm not really serious, since the sentence is "Dieter farted loudly and without embarrassment"). It was made into a film that doesn't quite do justice to the book, Who'll Stop the Rain. One of the few non-journalism-related celebrity encounters I'm glad to have had is running into Michael Moriarty and telling him how much I admired his interpretation of Converse in that film.  A Hall of Mirrors is great, too - filmed as the rather awful WUSA - and I actually have quite a bit of fondness for Stone's 1992 novel Outerbridge Reach, and some of his short stories. I actually once wrote Stone some fan mail, but I have no idea if he ever received it.

Besides Stone, I'm also saddened by the passing of Francesco Rosi, at age 92. I want to see Christ Stopped at Eboli and The Mattei Affair... I loved his bullfighting movie The Moment of Truth  and his anti-war WWI movie Many Wars Ago, and I liked Salvatore Giuliano - more of an interesting film than an entertaining one. I have Hands Over the City at home but haven't done it yet.

And of course we should note the passing of Rod Taylor (The Birds, Zabriskie Point). I liked him in both those movies and was kind of really happy to see him turn up as Winston Churchill in one of these overrated recent Tarantino films...

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Wait a second... re: The Interview

Corresponding with a friend who shall go unnamed and suddenly I have this horrifying thought: did
the CIA just slip one past my gates? Did the silliness of Seth Rogen and James Franco just serve as a lubricant to slide home a state-condoned, consent-manufacturing advertisement for the notion of targeted assassination? Is the silliness of The Interview a spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down? Did I not NOTICE that?

It woke me up at 6 am, being pissed off about this. (Well, that and the need to pee). Now I can't get back to sleep. I'm irked.

There's stuff that I actually liked about The Interview: the portrait of Kim Jong Un - played just brilliantly by an actor named Randall Park, whose work I haven't yet seen otherwise -  is both humanizing and critical. He's no less obnoxious than Franco's Dave Skylark character, and one of the better jokes of the film is that the two of them discover that they have much common ground. I came out of the film wanting to be optimistic about it, that the entire mess over the film could actually possibly provoke some good-willed dialogue between North Korea and the rest of the world, that would lead to the rather isolated nation becoming more enfranchised.

It's kind of like hoping True Lies would have made friends and influenced people in the Muslim world. The image that makes it impossible, that stuck there in my head, that I couldn't really process or incorporate into my attempt to see the film charitably, is the Kim Jong Un death scene, which is, though apparently softened considerably, really quite graphic and disturbing. It was also put into the world with the involvement and approval of the US State Department
North Korea's UN Ambassador Ja Song Nam has said that "the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent head of a sovereign state should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war. The United States authorities should take immediate and appropriate actions to ban the production and distribution of the aforementioned film; otherwise, it will be fully responsible for encouraging and sponsoring terrorism." It may just be that I haven't slept much but suddenly, awake before I need to be, I see things very clearly from North Korea's position. At least from my current point of view, it looks like they're kind of in the right about this. And the thought that I didn't actually NOTICE this, that I wasn't actually UPSET about it for a couple of days, that it slipped right home without my reacting is truly disturbing and frightening.

And now I have to get ready for work.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Cinema consumed: The Interview, Tusk

For those who have not yet found it online, The Interview is now playing at Hollywood 3 second-run cinemas in Surrey and Pitt Meadows. I caught it with a friend at the latter theatre for an admission price of $4.75, along with about 30 other filmgoers on this very rainy BC Sunday. The film is fun, but it's so trivial/ forgettable that it's somewhat hard to believe it could provoke such a drastic real-world reaction, with the US presently imposing sanctions on North Korea over the hubbub, and God-knows-what still coming down the chute. It's certainly no more provocative than Team America: World Police (though quite a bit funnier), and several magnitudes less cruel, less revealing, and less serious in intent than The Red Chapel, which is a film that deserved to provoke an international incident (and a far better film to seek out if you're wanting reflective film fare involving North Korea). The tone of The Interview's comedy is closer to that of Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (which offers a similarly sympathetic, humanizing pothead's-eye view of a monstrous figure in world politics, George W. Bush). It's irresponsible cinema, maybe - presuming to twiddle in the realm of international politics without seeming to have much concern for its repercussions; and if there is any element of a "publicity stunt" at work here then whoever is responsible should face legal consequences. It's also a film that non-fans of Franco, who is really excessive here, will find aggravating. Still, my friend Marina Sonkina used to opine that the central question worth asking of a comedy - maybe the only one - is whether or not it is funny; that this trumps all other considerations of politics, responsiblity, etc. And The Interview is funny. I laughed often. Not as much as I would have liked - it's not as inspired as This Is The End - but I was certainly amused enough for $4.75, and glad to have seen it. I have spent more money on films I enjoyed far less.
Speaking of potheads, though, you know what isn't funny? Kevin Smith's Tusk. It flickered so briefly on screens last year that I barely noticed it, and only just caught up with it tonight. I had quite enjoyed Red State and thought that Smith might actually be turning over a new leaf with that film (though I never believed he would retire; he loves attention far too much. Instead, he's made an absurdly trivial movie, in many (but not all) aspects describable as"The Human Centipede with walruses." Or maybe Sssssss with walruses, if you remember that film. It reads like something a couple of stoned buddies came up with on a lark, giggling insanely at the prospect of someone surgically altering other people in this manner. (Some of the actual giggling over the idea plays over the credits, note). Lots of things can seem funny and brilliant when you're not in your right mind, but apparently Smith hasn't learned to discriminate between the ideas you have when you're high that seem great but aren't, and the ones that are truly inspired... or else he just doesn't come down long enough to engage in sober consideration of his projects in the cold light of day (which I would recommend he start doing). Johnny Depp has a lot of fun with an uncredited, heavily-made-up role, and Michael Parks is great, as always, but the end product is just ridiculous (especially if you're a fan of The Human Centipede and Sssssss; it's almost like a piss-take on those films). It's possible I chose the wrong companion to view Tusk with, mind you - my 84 year old Mom didn't think much of it - but I think my patience would have been tried even under optimum viewing conditions (which presumably involve one or two cinema-savvy friends and a bag of bud). Smith apparently plans to do two more Canadian-set horror films, including something involving a killer moose on the rampage, entitled Moose Jaws. If he indeed is committed to that course, hopefully he will grow out of the "aboot" and "eh" jokes and references to the Bob and Doug McKenzie coo-roo-coos. It's kind of hard to believe he lived in Canada for any length of time (no doubt the real joke occurs on the level of meta-humour, that we're being encouraged to laugh at the unfunniness of the jokes, but...).

Sunday, January 04, 2015

My Flesh Eaters interview!

Living musical heroes... let's see... Peter Stampfel, interviewed him by phone. Eugene Chadbourne, have met and interviewed him. Rob Wright of Nomeansno, met and interviewed him. Gerry Hannah of the Subhumans, have met and interviewed him. But did I ever think I would get to talk to Chris Desjardins of the Flesh Eaters? No I did not! Nor did I think I would have a chance to see the band, but I will, January 13th in Seattle. Please let the gods of punk allow this to happen...?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Babadook and so forth

The Babadook is just great. If anyone read my rant, posted here and quickly removed, about how I'm getting stressed out lately from being my Mom's (somewhat inconstant) caregiver, they might be able to appreciate how deeply the film resonated tonight; it's (probably) the best horror film I've seen this year, is scary, psychologically rich, and skillfully crafted - though you go through some trauma worrying about its characters and what fate will befall them; it's a stressful film to watch. The focus is on a widowed mother who is stressing out about her difficult son, who needs love and attention and is not at all at fault for being a bit of a problem child, but whose needs have pushed her past the point of burnout. They stumble across a malign children's book, Mister Babadook, which talks about letting a demon of sorts into their home; it marks the beginning of a rapid decline in their relationship. You think, at first, that the child is going to be the receptacle of the demon, since he already acts like he's possessed at times... but no. Mr. Babadook - is it a coincidence that his name contains the words "bad" and "book?" - finds home in the mother, who begins to lash out at her child, in increasingly hostile ways. I read the film being about, mostly, the stresses of compassion fatigue, the difficultly of taking care of someone who is dependent on you, the need for self-care and constant watchfulness. At the end - there is a very mild, or at least somewhat indirect spoiler here, if you haven't seen the film - I was reminded of an archetypally-rich nightmare I once had, involving a job where I was the janitor of a haunted building, where there was a particular room in the basement with a very evil force in it, that I had to go down to exorcise periodically. But I was afraid of the room, and not very devoted to my job, so the evil force in the basement grew stronger and stronger, until - I can remember standing outside the locked door of the room, after weeks of "forgetting" about it, and feeling this vast evil presence pulsing within. "Oh shit, this is bad, what do I do?"

Of course, she doesn't go down to the basement to exorcise the demon... but I've probably said too much already. People interested in more should visit the film's website, where you have a chance to pre-order a really creepy looking pop-up book presumably similar to the one in the film! Thanks to Tom Charity, for bringing this remarkable film to Vancouver...

Speaking of basements, I would like to dedicate this blogpost to my favourite Ramones song, which I would sing to myself at work every time I took the elevator downstairs to room B-4 ( nowadays I work on the third floor, but that song still comes to mind every time I have to go downstairs). And by the by, yes, I finally got out to see Death Sentence tonight, for the first time since that show I can't remember in the late 80's/ early 90's, and figured out who it is that Doug Donut reminds me of: Chris Mulkey, in his Patti Rocks years (this has been preying on me for awhile now). It was a fun show, or at least the portion of it I was able to catch, though boy there were a lot of not-very-punk looking people who had apparently come to take photographs of the Wett Stilettos, who played earlier. Were they perverts, or is the band assembling a press kit? They're a fun band to take pictures of, I guess - they seem to strive for that. I will upload a couple of my own in a few days' time...

Friday, December 26, 2014

Wett Stilettos to open for Death Sentence

The Wett Stilettos are apparently enjoying my describing them as "snotty old school punk" in their first ever mention in the Georgia Straight this week. I'm suspecting they might just kick ass this Saturday when they open for Death Sentence, actually. I've seen them twice now, both times through no design of mine. The first show, at Lanalou's a few months ago, they were playing in a bill with that Forgotten Rebels tribute band that Danny Nowak (happy birthday, Danny!) sang for. Truth be known, they seemed a little stiff that night, and I didn't pay them much mind; Danny's band had already played, I was tired, and I headed for transit before their set finished. A few weeks ago, on the other hand, seeing them open for the Furies at the Fairview, I was struck by how much stronger they'd gotten (Maybe I just had more energy that night? They sure seemed to). I might just go check'em out Saturday, opening for Death Sentence at Funkys. While I like Death Sentence just fine - I believe I saw them once in the 1990's, at the York Theatre, on the same bill where I believe I caught the Spores - a gig I barely remember - this time out, I actually WANT to see the Wett Stilettos. They're kind of almost the draw (and "In Flames," of course). Check out a song by the Wett Stilettos here. (Track 16).

One wee suggestion for the Wett Stilettos: it would be cool to see a female fronted punk band perform a cover of the Nervous Eaters' "Just Head." I would really enjoy the rude gender politics of that. Just sayin'.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

On torrenting Gone Girl

I don't feel great about using torrent sites, you know? I know they're bad. But I broke down and torrented a few films anyhow this week, because I wanted to watch a few particular movies with my Mom, while I had time to, and they were movies that I knew I was either going to buy regardless, once they came out on Blu-Ray (so no harm done, really), and a few films that I conversely had no intention of ever paying money for without having seen them first to ascertain their quality. For instance, now that Gone Girl is more or less out of theatres - where I might have made it a date night movie - I was never going to pay money to see it on video. I might have waited til it showed up at the Maple Ridge Library to satiate my mild curiosity, but watching it that way wasn't really going to make money for anyone anyhow. So, yes, folks, I torrented it, knowing that either it would impress me (in which case I would make good on my bad behaviour and pay money for it on disc, no harm done), or prove to be something I was glad not to have wasted cash on (harm to myself averted!).

...And my God, here is what torrent sites were made for, because holy cripes, Gone Girl is, in the final analysis, awful. Worse, it's awful in a very sneaky way, because, despite the presence of Ben Affleck, it actually isn't all that bad for the first half. I was curious on sitting down to it whether it was the misogynistic vindication of rape culture that some feminists have described it as being. It might be, but I couldn't take it seriously enough to tease out the implications of its utterly asinine last act. The film accomplishes a great deal setting up a very complex situation, making us care for a fairly mediocre man, then taking us on what could have been a very unusual adventure with a woman who has had enough of his mediocrity. There is a moment where - spoiler! - Rosamund Pike is shown driving away from her marriage, explaining to the cameras how she has faked her murder and liberated herself - and you feel an honest to God EXCITEMENT for her, as a plausible female antiheroine. The moral complexity is considerable; we've discovered she's doing an awful thing, but we're with her, more than her husband - a victim, but a dope, who doesn't really deserve her, and kind of deserves to suffer a comeuppance at least a little. We're invested in this story, at this point, and want to see what happens next. At least I was.

Then the film runs out of ideas - or courage - and simply makes a monstrous psychopath out of her, intelligent enough to fake her own murder and escape her old life, but still, when a crisis strikes, utterly dependent on men. Though she can fake her death and get her husband arrested, she's neither crafty or smart enough to keep her sole stash of money safe (there's a really silly contrivance for her losing it, one of many less than plausible plot devices employed). Nor does she appear to have a credible plan for her future (like, say, a fake identity, which might be helpful if she truly plans to disappear). When she finds herself penniless - spoiler alert again! - she turns to an old boyfriend, whom she uses shamelessly, then murders, as part of a plot to contrive a story (she'd been abducted!) that will allow her to return to her husband, who wins her over via a TV broadcast where he apologizes for his failings (the film is very much interested in how TV operates in America today, but that doesn't make the plot any more believable; it mostly suggests that the author sure watches a lot of TV). How much more interesting would that film have been if she'd gone off to live a new life, and her husband just went to prison? Perhaps there could have been a reconcilation later on. Instead, we get something that plays like a high schooler wrote it, full of drama and plot twists and blood (Presumably GIllian Flynn's novel is much of a piece with the film; she adapted it herself for the screen). It turns its very interesting female main character into a spider lady, and turns itself into a piece of crap culture - possibly misogynist, but for me, it is a far worse crime that a movie be an insult to the intelligence than that it be politically incorrect. There is some great cinematic misogyny out there that is actually worth taking to task for its political failings. Gone Girl is just a bad movie, unworthy of serious consideration. David Fincher has finally, with this film, successfully done what The Curious Case of Benjamin Button could not, and gotten himself permanently crossed off the list of directors whose craft and skill are such that I will watch anything by them based on their name alone. It's a shame. I'm glad not to have spent any money to find this out.  

(I actually went and consoled myself by reading the various negative comments left by other people who disliked this film, below the review of one Brad Keefe. I'm with you, Brad!).

Adam Wingard's The Guest: yes!

Just caught up with Adam Wingard's The Guest. It's great, smart exploitation/ suspense cinema; I liked it even better than You're Next. The trailer I saw made it look like yet another tired riff on the "sexually charismatic visitor destroys hypocritical middleclass family" theme (think Teorema, Brimstone and Treacle, and Visitor Q). I've been skeptical since Borgman, from a couple years ago, that there's life left in the genre; that film seemed positively by-the-books, like the story was already being told one time too often. Happily, it turns out that the trailers do The Guest an injustice: while it IS basically a sexy evil visitor movie, it's terrific stuff, with a lot more political meat than I expected (and an interesting treatment of the theme of bullying to boot, picking up on conversations Erika and I had around the seeing of Stickboy). Plus it owes as much to A History of Violence or your average movie about (spoiler) conspiracies to create super-soldiers using mind control programs as it does to the Teorema template. Better than I expected, and well worth a look.

Oh, and speaking of that particular clique of horror filmmakers, I really liked Ti West's The Sacrament, too. It basically is a Shakycam riff on Jonestown but it has some great moments. Must admit that I was hoping for an even more downbeat ending, believe it or not. It's still really worth watching.

What else? Blue Ruin - which I just caught up with with Ma - was over-praised, if okay. Also, having attempted a second viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy since my previous post, I have to admit that it was over-praised too; a few cute moments lift it above the run-of-the-mill comic book spectacle SF film, but it's still basically a whole lot of mind-numbing special effects strung together at lightning pace. No amount of Groot can make that stuff stay interesting.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Al's musical top 10 for 2014

Alex Varty beat me to the punch on this one, article-wise - was writing about it before I even knew it existed - but I am so glad I bought it: Native North America Vol. 1 is on a bunch of top-10 lists on the Straight website, and I heartily concur. In fact, now that I've heard it, I look askance at any critic who DIDN'T put this on their top 10 list! I expected a mixed bag and am stunned at how cool song after song is - check the link and listen if you don't believe me. Simply a must-have for any music lover.

Hard pressed to put together my own top 10 for the year - I don't listen to a lot of new stuff these days - but, besides the above, I think it would include:

The Rebel Spell: Last Run - passionate political punk; I like the songs a smidgen less than the ones on It's a Beautiful Future but the sound is wayyy better. My big feature for the Straight is here. They have a big New Year's gig at the WISE Hall, eh?
The Ecstacy of Gold Vol 4-5: I think these both came out in the last year. Stuff I just want to spin over and over: a massive hoard of music from non-Morricone spaghetti western soundtracks. Volume 1 is already fetching collector's prices: the run of each was pretty limited. I got all five!

The Dishrags' Three: see my feature in the current Big Takeover. Essential, and mostly previously unheard.

Bishop's Green: Pressure. Best local punk band that I'd never heard before being assigned to write about them! (I COULD have seen one of their early gigs, opening for The Meatmen, but this drunken, somewhat irresponsible girlfriend-of-a-friend said she wanted to be comped into the show and I ended up stuck outside the club waiting for her while they played. I wish I had caught that show! Grrr!).

Gerry Hannah: Coming Home. I don't like every song on Gerry's album, but the great stuff on it is great - especially the reworking of "Holy American Empire" with Mike Graham on lead guitar, and one of the new songs, "You Can Take It From Me." Long-form review here. Nice that this stuff is out there again (Songs From Underground should get reissued, too, though).

Most cherished reissues on vinyl: the New Creation's Troubled, on vinyl, all that cool Roky Erickson stuff that came out, the Flesh Eaters' A Minute to Pray, A Second To Die. and Red Herring's Taste Tests, out now on CD for the first time (Red Herring feature here). Did those Dicks reissues come out this year, or was it last year, already? I can't keep it straight. Lot of great reissues, which is what I mostly buy these days.

I've run out of ideas but I kind of liked the Meatmen's new album, too! "The Ballad of Stinky Penis" sure is fun. Big Tesco Vee interview here.

Favourite movies in the theatre were Nightcrawler and Whiplash. Favourite director's cut: Nightbreed. Honourable mention goes to Guardians of the Galaxy, which I expected nothing from and so was quite amused by. Haven't seen Wingard's The Guest yet, but I'm very interested. Oh, and I liked a lot of V/H/S 2 and The Raid 2, and am now going to try to watch everything Gareth Evans (not Edwards!) does.

Happy holidays!

One Last Week At Carson Books (Dunbar location)

Now and then, I still sit in at Carson Books and Records, located for about one more week at 4275 Dunbar; and many of the people who come through, as the sale goes on, remark on the rapidly approaching closure of the location. It's part of a re-development that will affect several businesses, and see a very long stretch of Dunbar deprived of any bookstore at all, until you get up to 41st and Lawrence Books (a big bookstore, but a very different sort of experience from Tim's shop). Most people who come in wish Tim - pictured left, at his previous location - well. One customer, an articulate chap in a Skinny Puppy shirt, contrasted our city's development-minded indifference to supporting institutions like bookstores with the situation in France, where the government subsidizes them. By comparison, my unconfirmed understanding is that the developers who bought the block on Dunbar in fact got some sort of preferential fast-tracking from the city, so that they could get people out sooner and get their new project - condos or what-have-you - underway. No doubt the unique small retail locations that are being swept away will be replaced by something more generic and corporate...

But to return to customer comments, like I say, most people have been positive (and curious as to why the store is shutting down). "At least you're not closing for good" is a frequent remark - though some customers are vocally disappointed that the store is going to be moving as far away as Main Street. One grandmotherly type quipped in pique that "it's too far to drive all that way," so we weren't going to be getting more business out of her!

The fact is - as I rushed to point out to her - Carson never wanted to close down the Dunbar shop. The neighbourhood has more or less been supporting the business: not like it did when used bookstores didn't have the internet, e-readers and Amazon to compete with, of course, but well enough that Tim fully intended to stay in the location for years longer, had circumstances not changed. You can read about his reasons for moving to Main here, in the Straight interview with him. Meantime, note that this week will be the final week at the Dunbar location. The day after Boxing Day, Tim will be boxing up the books and records that he's keeping and getting ready to take shelves down, to re-open in early January at the Main Street store (next to Red Cat Records, in the former home of They Live Video). The Dunbar location will probably be RIP as early as next Monday. The current discount has been "buy three or more books and get 30% off," but by next weekend, that will intensify considerably, I expect. Records are also on sale (with a 40% discount for multiple purchases).

Anyhow, scavengers: there's still lots of good stuff to be had - both in terms of books and records; in fact, there are some real gems in the vinyl, including rare punk, metal, blues, reggae, folk and jazz. It would be hard to imagine an avid reader or record collector not being able to scrape up a few cool items at the shop (though obviously things have been cherry-picked over the last few weeks, and many of the most in-demand items have already been snatched up, or have been boxed up for shipment to Main Street). There are even a few items I have coveted, like a pretty cool reggae sampler with an atrocious (so-bad-it's-almost-great) cover, but some great music on it. If someone doesn't buy this by next Saturday I will probably feel obliged to give it a good home (I believe the correct songs are on a Youtube playlist here, but it'll sound way better on vinyl...).
Maybe we'll see you at the store next weekend? I will probably be giving Tim a hand...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The difficulty of going out, plus Advanced Style

What I get to go see, these days, is increasingly different from what I want to see. There are now so many contingencies that never used to slow me down: am I in the mood? Do I have the energy? Do I have work that I have to do? Do I need to be up early? Is it raining? Am I dressed properly? Do I have to be somewhere else? Am I in the right town? Is my girlfriend interested? Does she have the energy? Does she need to be up early? If she's not interested, where will I sleep afterwards? How long with the commute be? Will there be a bus running that late? One of the reasons I'm ambivalent about this whole having-kids idea (which my girl is really into) is that I barely get out as it is, these days. Add kids and I'll be lucky to catch one show a year.

There was a bunch of stuff I wanted to do last night. A cool friend was having a birthday party. A cool-seeming neo-doo-wop band (Shannon and the Clams) were playing at the Electric Owl. I ended up going instead to see a documentary about Antarctica and the film Advanced Style at the Vancity Theatre. Neither were high on my list. No party was attended. No concert was gone to. By 10pm, I was ready to go back home. I was asleep an hour before the concert would have ended, and I am glad for it. I have become lame.

This all serves partially to underscore just how significant the January 13th Flesh Eaters show in Seattle is to me. I have interviewed Chris D. (Yet to be published). I have secured the time off work. I have bought a ticket. I am going to research train prices/ cheap transit. I am going to go to this Seattle show. I may deliberately miss a night's sleep over it, and suffer thereafter, but I am going. Universe, try to stop me.

On the other hand, I am probably going to be at the upcoming Death Sentence show at Funkys, not because of any great passion for Death Sentence (tho' "In Flames" is pretty great) but because my girl is going away that weekend and needs someone to look in on her cat, and if I'm going to be in town that weekend anyhow...

That's my life these days! (I may go out to catch David M. tonight too but I hope David forgives me if I don't, who knows what the day yet holds).

Incidentally, it's weird to me that more Vancouverites turned out for a documentary about Antarctica than a documentary about senior females with outlandish (or at least very creative/ assertive) fashion sensibilities, you know? I'm just the opposite. You can get your fill of Antarctica on the Discovery Channel, I figure; and how many Emperor penguins does anyone need to see in life? I haven't even finished watching the Herzog documentary on Antarctica, shut it off shortly after the thing about an ape riding an antelope (one of Herzog's more eye-rolling self-indulgences of late). The film now playing, Antarctica: A Year On Ice, is not bad, and has some really beautiful images of the sky and varied atmospheric phenomena, but it isn't anything particularly unusual or impressive. A LOT of time-lapse photography is used - so much that you sometimes don't know if a given shot you're seeing is happening in real time or sped up, which interferes with appreciating what's on screen.  That aspect of the film I found rather intrusive; I would have appreciated a more James Benning-like approach, though it would have made things a lot longer, I suppose. There were a few interesting observations about what it's like to winter over there, but all were done in a kind of chatty, anecdotal way, without much in the way of hard information or deep insights. (At one point you learn in passing, for instance, that its against the rules to help out a seal that has lost its way and is obviously in distress; but you don't learn why it is against the rules. Some abiding devotion to Darwin? The filmmakers apparently wanted to assemble their film using only the voices of their interview subjects, so they don't ask questions, even when the questions would be revealing; nor do they weigh in with information not otherwise provided during the interviews*).

On the other hand, the Advanced Style ladies are really quite charming and lovely; women ranging in age from their 60's to their 90's who have appeared on the blog of one Ari Seth Cohen. Two in particular make a real impression: Ilona Royce Smithkin, who painted a portrait of Ayn Rand that we've all seen, and now makes her own false eyelashes out of her own hair (which she dyes orange); and the lovely and stylish Tziporah Salamon, who reminds me a little of Ann Magnuson (who still is a bit too young for Cohen's project, and who mostly dresses straighter than these ladies, except when she's made up as Kali). I like old ladies, particularly ones who are not shy about standing out in the crowd; most of the women in this doc pull themselves together beautifully, and some are positively punk rock. And they're all eccentric and entertaining, even in their more "Diva" moments.

But by my casual count, there were fifty+ people for the Antarctica doc, and 20- people for Advanced Style. Go figure!
*This approach may still be preferable to having Werner Herzog give his opinion about everything.