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Joy Division – Still

1000860Still is a grab bag, an odds ‘n’ sods collection for Joy Division completists that is easy to fault for what it is not:  Next to the band’s studio albums, efforts they curated with the utmost care, it feels like a bunt.  But of course it would, you say.  It’s Factory Records cleaning up, rummaging the vaults after Ian Curtis, the lyricist/vocalist, decided to go and die on them.  The fucker!

Of the erratic live tracks assembled, only two are keepers (“Sister Ray,” which is goofy, and “Ceremony,” which is breathtaking).  The other live songs pale beside their studio-based counterparts.  United by Martin Hannett’s production, which crystallized the band’s sound (brittle, dense, danceable, industrial), the studio tracks here vary in quality.  Some of them could be leftovers from the band’s earliest days, when they went as Warsaw.  Others feel like sketches for the standouts they never became.  In the top tier, then, we have just “The Only Mistake” (a rich look at guilt) and the groovy, almost funny “Dead Souls.”

So, Still lacks a satisfying arc, and it smacks of desperation, as though Factory had scurried around to cash in on what few JD songs were left in the can, overlooking (or deliberately sitting on) tracks that in 1981 had yet to find a home on an LP.  Somewhere between Still, Substance (1988), and Permanent (1995) is a useful, chronological overview of the band as it meant to present itself to the world at large—and it appears as though the Heart and Soul box set (1997) is it for now.1

Rating: C-

1Spotify and YouTube render the point moot.  In this digital, streamable age, a record like Still is simply that—a record.  Anyone can go online and cull the cream without having to invest in it.

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Problem with Nerd Love

brothersquay

Nerd Love = Loving nerdly things, not nerds loving each other. That’s okay.

Loving nerdly things is a self-validating (self-flattering?) exercise: evidence of elevated taste. And I’ve loved the Brothers Quay for a long time, despite their two feature films being…kind of dogs.

Because they are all about the stop-motion animated shorts. And apparently Christopher Nolan agrees, because he’s directed a short documentary about them.

Which will spread their art much further and wider and so a bunch of Normals will get into it and ruin my nerdly love cred. So boo.

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Van Morrison – Listen to the Lion

vanthemanIn his first few years of solo stardom, Van the Man would sometimes jam in a way I find honorable:  By repeating a simple lick on the guitar or piano (nothing ornate), he’d lock on a groove that let him shimmy and scat into a hypnotic zone that was all the more entrancing because he didn’t float off into the ether (or, ahem, the mystic).  In terms of chords, of instruments, he kept his feet on the ground.  The starting point was “Madame George,” from the Astral Weeks album.  In “Listen to the Lion,” he again channels something deep within his soul-whoa-whoa; and if I didn’t know better, I’d say he’s singing about the importance of being true to oneself, of listening to and following one’s heart, and going with a flow for which words become unsuitable, that is finally guttural.  There are songs, and there are Songs.  This one deserves a monument.

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Hey! I Used to Write For This Site

naked-lunch-typewriter

Well, the old typewriter’s getting antsy, so I’m breaking it out again. How about a list? Everyone loves lists!

A list of things I have to say (buzz-feed ready):

  1. Hannibal Season 3 and True Detective Season 2 aren’t what they should be. They aren’t the worst things in the world (I don’t care if it’s how you make money on the intarwebs, I refuse to be a strictly binary thinker), but they’re very disappointing, and it’s worth thinking about why.
  2. Big Criterion sale at Barnes and Noble! I’m a helluva lot better at buying these things than watching them, but don’t let that stop you. Waste money! Blu-rays are awesome! And God knows how long Barnes and Noble will be around to keep doing these semi-annual sales. I bought the Zatoichi box set last time. zatoichi-criterion-collection-thumb-300xauto-41163
    Watched any of it yet? NOPE!
  3. Speaking of Criterion, they just announced their releases for October, and at least three of them are awesome movies:

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Full specs here at blu-ray.com.

No commentary on The Brood (too bad – DC gives great commentary), but some new docs which I always love.

Mulholland Drive I’m especially looking forward to. In the DVD release, David Lynch censored Laura Harring’s lady nethers. Let’s hope when they say restored, they mean restored video.

Also, a couple other movies. One’s gay, one’s Italian. You pick which is which.

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The Best Horror Movies of the 90s: Scream

screamSome observations:

-Perhaps more than any other horror film of the 1990s, Scream acts as a fun history lesson.  In chiding and recycling the slasher film tropes of yesteryear, Wes Craven’s sleeper hit rejuvenated the genre—one that had gone stale; one to which the audience of the day had become inured.  In short, Scream was a good slasher film that inspired many a viewer to (re-)investigate the origins of the form.

-Some people may look at the movie now and see a hollow, dated film.  They may think its central gimmick (i.e., deconstructing slasher films in order to create one that epitomizes the genre for a knowing, jaded audience) a bit, well, gimmicky.  It’s not a perfect film.  Sometimes it strikes me as a bit too ironic for its own good; but I never understood the criticism it engendered, flak that eventually resulted in a global reversion to unrelentingly gory and straight-faced horror flicks like Hostel and Wolf Creek.  The mocking, go-for-broke mimicry is the reason Scream (and, to a lesser extent, its three direct follow-ups) remains fresh.  The movie is about obsessive self-referentialism, the extremity to which fan-boys and –girls can cling to their immoral fixations on a reality that exists only in their fucked-up little heads.

-Scream could not have happened before the 90s.  The premium channel and VHS wave of the 1980s laid the groundwork for it and the audience receptive to it.  Still, I think Scream has cross-generational appeal, if only because it offers a toothy, entertaining critique of slasher films (the worst of the lot glorify their antiheroes), and of broken homes and the way movies help to fill (or stretch) that void for the victims of said homes.

-Like the movie’s heroine, Kevin Williamson’s script hates the way characters in slasher films typically behave.  That said, Williamson, by “hanging a lantern,” knows it is these clichés, these tropes, which fuel the viewer’s interest in the story.  At one point, John Carpenter’s Halloween, the slasher pic nonpareil, scores the events onscreen, its diegetic presence instrumental in more ways than one.  Scream uses this point/counterpoint kind of approach well.  It wouldn’t matter, though, if the film weren’t serious about its subtext: the death of the nuclear family.

-For all its snarkiness, Scream is really about kids watching themselves watch themselves.  Nobody’s minding them; the parents are all but invisible (and the high school principal is a vicious little shit, a kid in a grown-up’s body).  The kids aren’t disaffected so much as unsupervised.  Movies and TV shows are the real role models here.  In checking out—in effectively behaving like kids themselves—the parents have abdicated their roles as protectors and confidants.  Bored, obsessed with horror films (and their sick displays of power and aggression), and having too much time on their hands, the teenagers of Scream (especially the narcissistic, sociopathic shits behind the crimes we see) resort (or fall prey) to violence all too readily.  This could happen.  The home has failed them.  All of this gives Scream real staying power.

-The movie has one of the best opening scenes, ever.  Not only does it set the tone for the rest of the film, it asks the basic question the story must answer:  Who killed Casey Becker, and why?

Rating: A-