July 28, 2010
I have to admit to not being able to understand the name of anyone in the Taxi Gang, though they were announced twice. I can't find the current line-up online, but know that the two keyboard players, sax, trombonist/vocalist who threw it down with them were great. The guitarist however, was fantastic. I wish I knew who he was- if you do, please mention it in the comments. A singer named Peter G. came out and did a couple of tunes with the band toward the end and almost got done by a woman from the audience.
The hour and a half set, played for an enthusiastic, often high, distressingly and overwhelmingly Caucasian full-house, was heavy on monster slabs of dub. Though Dunbar's drum kit was more modest than I expected, the band doesn't shy away from using computer effects on their instruments and Dunbar crafted thick percussive beats that seemed to come from three different players. The sound of the drums shifted all night, and you could never tell where he was going to take it next. While he sometimes called out cues, more often the music just suddenly shifted into another zone with no effort, smooth as glass but sharp as a knife.
Shakespeare is simply an amazing bass player- he plays it with right hand, he plays it with his left, and he makes it look so effortless as he rolls his shoulders to the rhythm. He almost never looked at Dunbar, yet the two of them were as in sync as any two musicians I've ever seen play together. Never flashy, but the man can make you move your body with his bass like you're a puppet. The songs ranged from straightforward reggae to dub with heavy metal guitar laid over the top like a machine gun. But mostly it was about the rhythm and on that score, it was a funkin' dub monster gig.
Once again, a shout-out to Yoshi's for being a great place to see a show. I went by myself and when I told the host upstairs I wanted to eat she asked me if minded sharing a table with a child. Surprised by the question, I said "not at all" and sat down next to Eduardo and Kelly from Bishop, there to get their groove on with their charming young son Mattias. A super-nice family who chatted me up while I ate my burger and fries, quickly and efficiently delivered by one of the joint's excellent servers. Though I've seen a couple of mishaps in the place, all in all Yoshi's has to be one of the very best venues in San Francisco for live music.
July 26, 2010
Nearby, less than 25 feet away, I came across this fun summer slip-on. I think you can figure out everything but the end of its mate by just the picture alone. It's like a little mystery, isn't it? In my version, I call the owner of the missing mate with the nuts in her mouth Trudy.
Well, at least they have each other.
July 22, 2010
Caliber and The Tens. Check 'em out.
July 19, 2010
Then I saw it. Him. My shadow. The Little Chinese Man was now coming toward me on a block we have haven't encountered one another before- Geary at Shannon- an alley full of despair and detritus. I gasped, but I had my camera at the ready. Would I be able to shoot my shot this time?
Thankfully, he was already stuffing his maw with some strange object, a thing once alive, that he had now crammed into a bag like a victim of Buffalo Bill, to devour as he minced his way through the Tenderloin. My neighborhood, my streets. I share them with him like a prison cell. Here he is, faithful readers, it's The Little Chinese Man:
My second shot was premature and my load hit the ground, landing on filthy cement. I regained my composure, and as the world grew hot with dread around me, I was able to capture his image as he passed me by, stuffing his face with who-knows-what. But I dared not make a sudden move.
The sporty sweater and pink hoodie were obviously the spoils of his previous kill, and the pants were looser than usual- perhaps from the earlier struggle, but here he is- and closer to me than he's ever been. And yet I live.
I'm telling you, it's been a month of horrors!
July 18, 2010
So why the fuss?
No doubt as time passes composer Bernard Herrmann's stature only grows larger. The man who penned the scores for Citizen Kane, Vertigo and Taxi Driver (talk about longevity) may have hit his peak with Hitchcock's critically panned shocker, creating one of the most recognizable motifs in film history, perhaps only surpassed by John Williams' shark motif from Jaws (another horror movie, btw). Certainly the music stands on it own as masterful, but does it merit that kind of response?
Yes, but only because of what it contributes to the film- which, as Jack Sullivan recently pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, is more than substantial. In fact, many have argued that without Herrmann's score, Psycho would have been a failure.
Then again, there's the film itself- a nasty thing, full of Freudian nooks and crannies, that imprints itself upon the brain like few others. Recalling seeing it for the first time, my mother swore Janet Leigh's blood was red as it flowed down the drain. It wasn't of course, but that's how potent the images (and sound) are. You think you see things in Psycho that aren't really there. Still, is the film itself worth paying a lot more money to see than you would at the Castro during a Hitchcock retrospective? Of course not. It's combination that makes it work.
July 17, 2010
I first saw Antibalas last November when they were the house band for the brilliant Fela! production on Broadway. Now I got a chance to see them doing their own thing and in short, these guys walked onstage and proceeded to blow the doors off for two solid hours in a super-tight, propulsive, explosive orgy of grooves and rhythms. They just seemed unstoppable. Originating from Brooklyn, the band is:
AMAYO (Vocals & Percussion and MAP's favorite- she's so predictable)
VICTOR AXELROD (Organ/Clavinet)
ERIC BIONDO (Trumpet)
STUART BOGIE (Tenor Sax)
MARCUS FARRAR (Shekere)
MARCOS GARCIA (Guitar)
AARON JOHNSON (Trombone)
JORDAN MCLEAN (Trumpet)
NICK MOVSHON (Bass)
LUKE O'MALLEY (Guitar)
MARTIN PERNA (Baritone Sax, founder)
CHRIS VATALARO (Drums)
Working in a vein that combines Afrobeat with serious strains of latin and funk meticulously woven into the mix, the band had the entire house dancing with them like there was going to be no tomorrow, creating that all-too-rarely experienced perfect symbiosis between audience and performer: you can no longer tell where the energy is coming from, the audience or the stage, because the line simply disappears between the two.
Sat, July 17 - Garberville, CA - Reggae on the River
Mon, July 19 - Portland, Or - Berbati’s Pan*
Tue, July 20 - Seattle, WA - Neumos*
Thu, July 22 - New York City - River to River Festival, Castle Clinton
Thu, July 29 - Philadelphia, PA - Kimmel Center, Perelman Theater
Don't miss them if you live in one of these cities- it was one of the best shows I've seen in a very, very long time, only made that much better by the sudden appearance of Steve and John, who appeared out of nowhere to be standing right next to us.
Afterward, having burned off the tacos, MAP and I went to Osha Thai for a late dinner, which no matter how upscale the two sisters who own the place try to make it, still has the same old disgusting bathrooms they've had forever.
The plot is simple. A young couple, out on their first date, is kidnapped and held in the basement/torture chamber of a crazy doctor who wants to seek his own sexual pleasure by torturing them. If they do as he says he will release them once he had his jollies. That's the plot.
For the next hour the doctor does just that. I won't go into details because if you want to read about that kind of stuff you should just go see the movie, which has two more screenings during the festival (July 18th & 22nd). There's a respite in the middle where the couple is recuperating, thinking they'll be set free, only to find themselves back in the torture chamber for a second round more vicious and cruel than the first.
It's very sick and twisted material, with no redeeming value to it whatsoever and yet the movie is captivating because of the strong performances and production values. Maybe I'm trying to find a justification for this kind of film because I also thought it raises a couple of interesting questions about masculinity and the stupidity of being in love. The doctor, who by the way has a penchant for listening to Tchaikovsky and Puccini while dismembering his victims (and in this case dismemberment is a very accurate term), asks the young man numerous times if he's willing to die for the young girl, to which he always affirms his willingness. But he hasn't even slept with this girl yet- this is their first date. Foolish boy.
The doctor proceeds to render both of them unable to ever consummate their love and yet still this guy, now memberless, sans one eye and with his intestines trailing behind him, tries to save her in the name of love by executing pointless act of chivalry. It's ridiculous, but the young people's earnestness never rings false and this is why from my perspective the movie isn't easily dismissed as pure trash. Or again, maybe I'm just fooling myself? I don't think so because unlike The Girl Next Door, probably the most vile thing I've ever seen, Grotesque seems more like a parable than just a cinematic excursion into the bottomless depths of human depravity.
When it was all over, Femme Fatale and I made our way over to the Uptown, where we had a few Manhattans amid the low-key, extremely cordial regulars at the bar. She then went her way and I went back downtown, in search of some quick food before catching Antibalas at the Great American Music Hall.
July 15, 2010
Here's the trailer. Yes, it contains lots of blood, spurting, gushing and flowing, as well as various body parts in various stages of dismemberment and some great cheesy music from the movie:
If you get a chance to see this, don't miss it. It's the most fun you'll have in a long time. There is one more showing here in SF on July 17th at the Roxie.
Last night she and her four-piece band rolled into the Great American Music Hall to highlight material from the new album in an hour and a half show that at times felt incredibly intimate and at others like she was about to blow the walls off the relatively small confines of the GAMH. A pretty impressive feat for a 65 year old woman. I've read Esquire has dubbed her "the sexiest singer alive." I can understand why. Talent, and mean hip-shake are pretty damn sexy.
July 14, 2010
July 13, 2010
Edited and directed by Andrew Monument, it features clips from hundreds of films between interviews with directors John Carpenter, George Romero, Joe Dante, Larry Cohen, Roger Corman, Tom McLoughlin and producer Brian Yuzna. The interviews are revealing and entertaining. Carpenter may be the most intellectual of the bunch and the variety found in his films reflect the curiosity of a keen mind. Documentaries like this, of which this one is far better than most, are fun because they remind us of films we may have long forgotten about and how really great the classics are. And if they're really good, they leave us with a list of movies we have to see again or watch for the first time. I made a list of more than fifteen films I need to review or watch for the first time based on clips or comments in the movie. That's time well-spent.
I was really interested in the last segments which discussed how horror has changed since 9/11 because I've been thinking about this for awhile now. The genre has turned to the 70's for inspiration, yet it's a far darker view this time around. Thinking about recent films, many of which are obviously destined to be considered classics (Saw, Hostel and The Devil's Rejects to name the three most obvious ones) and sub genres that have emerged since then, it's interesting food for thought. Make the analogies for yourself- there are so many places to start. Also, for a documentary focused on American film making, there's an interesting analysis of how foreign horror is different from our own. Especially in the past decade, as European horror grows increasingly sophisticated, Asian horror borders the fetishist extremes and ours becomes increasingly violent and nihilistic.
July 11, 2010
- There is one of those tags letting us know the film opens in Oakland. Really? When you open a movie in Oakland we expect black thugs or pretty scenes of Lake Merritt. Not a bunch of good-looking white guys hanging out in a front yard that actually looks more like Pleasanton or the lower rent areas of Santa Rosa.
- There is never a follow-up location announcement and the story could really take place anywhere, so what's the point of calling out Oakland, especially when it doesn't look like anything is actually taking place there? It may as well be Cleveland.
- Some mean looking white guy named Tim or Tick or whatever (half the dialogue is completely inaudible, mumbled gunk) pulls up in an Escalade and all menacing-like gets in the face of the pretty white guys, who proceed to kick his ass right in the middle of their comfy, suburban street. Oh wow, I guess the tone is set. Two minutes in, max, and I'm thinking "shit, I could be home watching the last disc of "Mad Men, Season 3."
- These good-looking, fake tatted white guys are supposed to be part of tough-ass biker gang. HA HA HA HA- you've got to be fucking kidding me. They look like Abercrombie models. And their women? HA HA HA- they look like they would be fucking Abercrombie models, not bikers.
- An hour into the movie and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED except some weird-ass shit involving a car accident that makes no sense whatsoever.
- An hour and a minute into the movie the one nasty chick is suddenly possessed by some freaky spirit as a result of a car accident, even though the car didn't even crash or hit anything at all. Out of the blue, all of a sudden, she's possessed by the EVIL DEAD!
- The bikers are all pussies. Well really, Cody (what kind of name is that for a biker, especially when he looks like he should have been cast in a Twilight movie) isn't so much a pussy as a sensitive type. WTF?
- All of a sudden someone is walking on the ceiling.
- I repeat, all of a sudden, someone is walking on the ceiling. Sure, she just took a chunk out of someone's neck, just after they started doing it necrophilia-style, but now she's hanging out on the ceiling like Spiderman.
- Can anyone even understand half of the poorly miked mumblelogue?
- Suddenly, Joe Strummer, the closeted gay guy from Mad Men (wearing eyeliner and red socks), and random guy on the bus with a head set show up with two Bettys in tow and proceed to kick the shit out everybody and wrap the Veronicas in Saran Wrap.
- The Bettys chew gum and don't do much else.
- The Veronicas are restrained by the Saran Wrap.
- The ceiling-walking chick is now about to give birth to Joe Strummer's queen, which has some obvious portent for who-the-fuck-knows-what because not a whit of this shit makes sense.
- Joe Strummer, weighing all of 120 lbs and wearing a pompadour that would get his ass kicked in almost any bar in America, proceeds to kick the shit of everybody.
- Joe Strummer is invincible. You can shoot him, you bruise him, but you'll still have to listen to his whiny faux Brixton bullshit.
- Out of nowhere, Joe, Mad Men gay guy, bus dude and the Bettys are transformed into Poltergeists. Or some stupid original Battlestar Galactica junk happens. I have no idea at this point and I really don't care..
- Uber-hot, sensitive Veronica lives, while the even hotter Veronica gets her throat sliced while restrained in Saran Wrap.
- Ceiling-walking, throat-munching girl is laid out naked on the coffee table. She has a pretty decent Brazilian wax job, even though she's bloodied from head to toe.
- Speaking of the coffee table, this all supposedly takes place in a legendary biker farmhouse- and yet there are portraits of preppy-looking guys in suits and bow ties on the walls all over the house. The nature of this particular gang of suits is never explained. But then again, nothing else is either.
- Ass-kicking bikers drink PBR? Me thinks not.
- Joe Strummer gives the still-living Veronica and sensitive Cody the keys to his Hudson and wishes them well before the apocalypse begins, which is about to start at any moment and woe to them, but at least they have a nice ride.
- The space ship from District 13 shows up over Santa Rosa. The rapture begins. Seriously. At least that's how I undestood it.
- The End. Roll credits. Cue rockabilly music in place of Bach.
- An hour and a half of my life has passed. I will never get it back.
Sorry Butcher Bros- major FAIL. Next time, just film yourselves Cassavetes-style sitting around the Nite Cap after doing a bunch of meth, talking through the ideas for your next movie, then let the cameras follow as you beat the shit out of the silly-ass moped gang that hangs out there. Now that would be entertainment!
Luckily for you, dear reader, Another Hole in the Head only scheduled this stinker once and you likely missed it- though there was inexplicably a fair amount of applause from the audience when it ended. I suspect the Butcher Bros had all their relatives in attendance.
July 10, 2010
First of all, if you've read of the film's notoriety- it's banned in Serbia and prompted numerous walk-outs at SXSW when it made its U.S. premiere there in March- know that it's well-deserved. It's flat-out shocking. It's also an incredibly well-made, stunning film that makes Gaspar Noe's attempts at a cinema of endurance look like Tim Burton.
Here is the Red-Band Trailer for the film. Do not even think about watching this at work or with kids around. It contains nudity, explicit sex and scenes of blood and violence. It also has some of the great music from the film and gives an idea of what it's like.
The plot centers around Milos, a retired porn star now living a relatively mundane life with his gorgeous wife and their young son. Milos is offered a ton of money to star in an "artistic" porn film to be directed by the fawning yet mysterious Vukmir Vukmir. The catch is that Milos, who used to make his own films, doubts Vukmir's intentions from the get go. Why would he pay him money like this to make porn? Things become even more dubious to Milos when the director insists Milos agree beforehand to not know what he's going to do in the film. It's to be shot live, and broadcast outside of the country to well-heeled connoisseurs of the director's unique vision. It's Vukmir's film, but he insists he can't make it unless he has Milos in it, whom he considers an artist that no one understands. Milos has no pretensions that any of this is true, but the money is too good to pass up and he signs the contract.
Director/co-writer Srdjan Spasojevic starts laying a sense of dread for where he's taking us early on, aided by the most effective soundtrack (by Sky Wikluh) for a film I've heard since, well, "Requiem for a Dream." By the film's conclusion, it's almost physically uncomfortable to experience. The viewer is assaulted by sound and vision and though it's awful, it's also undeniably thrilling to experience a film that is so sure-handed while operating so far outside the bounds of anything acceptable.
The film's cast is perfect. Milos, played by Srdjan Todorovic looks a bit like Mark Wahlberg gone to hell, but has a weariness in his face more in common with Clint Eastwood in his later films. It's a performance no American actor of any stature would dare attempt. He may be Serbia's most legendary porn star, but he's also the only one with a university degree. He doesn't exude the faintest whiff of sleaze.
As Vukmir Vukmir, Sergej Trifunovic has a subtle malice masked by a high level of sophistication. He's a mash-up of the Marquis de Sade, Tony Robbins and Stanley Kubrick. There are a number of striking women in the film, led by Sergej Trifunovic as Milos' wife Maria and Katarina Zutic as his ex-partner in porn who introduces him to the deal and ends up paying for it through the mouth- literally in ways I don't even want to describe. Milos' older brother Marko, a nasty cop with an obvious attraction to his sister-in-law, is sleaze personified and well-played by Slobodan Bestic.
"A Serbian Film" is smart film-making. It opens with Milos' son watching one of his father's old movies that was accidentally left lying around. When the boy's parents explain that "it's like a cartoon for grown-ups" and later explain sexual arousal and masturbation to the child, it's done with an honesty, sophistication and warmth that's disarming given the content. There are a number of touches like this which elevate the film to something far greater than a horrific torture porn thriller.
But it is indeed just that, and in abundance. It's ultra-violent, contains very explicit sex, and crosses the line at so many points into taboo it guarantees the film is never going to be seen widely, if ever, outside of the festival circuit. Which is too bad, because in the same way David Fincher's "Fight Club" and Scorcese's "Goodfellas" say so much about the culture in which they take place, "A Serbian Film" is an analogy for post-war Serbia. What it says is too dark to even want to think about as an outsider, and understandably many Serbs have come out vociferously against this film, but having seen it I at least now understand why it's been banned. To call it scathing isn't even close. It's a blow-torch at full blast held six inches from the Serbian national identity and it aims to burn everything in front of it. It makes me wonder what an American version of the same story would look like. After all, we invented this stuff, right?
Sadly, there isn't another showing of it at the Another Hole in the Head festival scheduled, but if they add one or it shows up somewhere else, if you can stomach it, I can't recommend this film strongly enough. It's brilliant- and believe me, you've never seen anything like it- at least I hope you haven't.
Finally, if you wish to comment, please do not include spoilers about the film in your comment. While many articles have described specific parts of the film, I haven't because when I saw the film I had no idea what to expect and I think that's why it had such a profound effect on me. The less you know, the more disturbing it is.
The film is set to be released in the U.S. on May 13th, 2011, in an edited version in theaters.
July 8, 2010
Damn, lady- the riots haven't even started yet!
The Violent Kind and Shadow look to be more grindhouse/exploitation than horror, a genre explored in the documentary American Grindhouse and these kinds of movies are just too scarce to pass up, as are serious documentaries about them.
Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre features the original Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen, and the trailer makes it look much better than the ridiculously lame title suggests. Icelandic horror- who knew? This one looks like a contender for best of fest.
J-Horror is over-represented in the schedule, though I'm not surprised, especially since it's taking place at the Viz Theater in Japantown. Generally, I'm not a fan of this genre but Mutant Girls Squad, Samurai Princess, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl and Grotesque (described as "two parts horror porn and a dash of snuff film") sound promising enough
So there you have it. Those are my choices. If you see one that you liked that's not on my list, please leave a comment about it.
Then there's the "when worlds collide" delight later this month when the San Francisco Symphony accompanies the original slasher-flick, Psycho, on Saturday, July 17th. See, some people get that high and low culture can be paired with great results, which has always been my belief.
July 4, 2010
Shortly into it I thought to myself, this must be the most poorly-written piece I've ever encountered in this magazine. Now for me, the thought of finding anything poorly written in the NYer is a surprise, even though some of the "Shouts and Murmers" columns often fail to amuse me. But that's humor, and humor is a fickle thing. The writing in the NYer is almost uniformly excellent, though once in awhile (rarely, actually) I do find a sentence of dubious grammar. The poor quality of the writing in Malcolm's piece kept nagging at me though, with it's neither third nor first person narrative, detours into a collective omniscience and its 20 chapter length. There is just something off about it.
Then came the shocker, which made me want to go back to every issue since and check if anyone had commented on a sentence which appears in the article. The sentence stunned me. I read it twice. I read it a third time. And then I wondered how the hell it made it into print and that in the two months since the publication of this article I haven't heard nor read a single word about it.
What is the sentence?
It's surrounded by a loaded question and a distinctly presumptuous conclusion. Read this, which appears on page 55:
Here we come to another of the questions about Borukhova that blur her portrait
and give it its strange tinge. Why did she keep harping on the sexual abuse? If Daniel's "grave misconduct directed at the vagina of his young daughter" (or what Fass [Borukhova's attorney] called "inappropriate touching") actually occurred, it surely wasn't the cause of the child's fear of him - it was merely kinky. It would have served Borukhova better - it would have been rational and logical - to connect Michelle's fearful, clinging behavior during the visits to scary scenes of domestic violence.
The story is about the murder trial of Marina Borukhova, who was found guilty of conspiracy to have her husband murdered when she lost custody of her young daughter during divorce proceedings. Now yes, I have been super busy these past couple of months and way behind all the news and 2nd tier stories, but how has this comment not prompted any outrage? Have I missed it? Did it not happen? The Western world almost collapsed when one line from the long sermon of a fiery preacher was taken out context, creating a media maelstrom that almost derailed an entire presidential campaign. Yet here is one of the most respected magazines in the country, indeed my very favorite magazine, tacitly stating that the sexual abuse of a child wouldn't cause the child to fear an adult- it's "merely kinky"?
God damn America, what the hell is going on? And what the hell is going on with my formatting for this post? Sorry, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it. I hate Blogger sometimes.
The photo from the court room is by James Messerschmidt/Polaris.
July 2, 2010
Jewdoo? Who knew!
It reminded me of something else I recently saw, this past Wednesday actually, right outside my office building. Apparently there's a night shift I was unaware of and it seems the janitorial staff isn't as thorough as one would hope, because this kind of work really must be cleaned up immediately after completing:
The above picture was taken at Bechtel Plaza in San Francisco. It's kind of fitting actually, when you think about how regularly Bechtel screws people for a profit, but I didn't know they were willing to take it to this level.
The following day I witnessed another little incongruity- free coke that nobody wanted. These cases of coke sat on the Beale Street sidewalk for more than two hours before finally disappearing. I thought about taking them for myself, but there's a well-stocked fridge on our floor and besides, I prefer ginger ale. But seriously- two hours and not one recyclist or bum grabbed them? Even selling them for $.50 a can, someone could have made enough cash for a nice little hit of the real thing, right?