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by Karen Zarker

9 Dec 2009

One can run a half-marathon (and a full marathon, if so inclined—I wasn’t) powered largely by the delicious teachings of a Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. I’ve had my Moosewood for over 10 years, now—treasured well beyond that nutty idea I had to run for distances that now, well, that’s what a bike—or car—is for. Sure, healthy eating was part of what steered me toward Moosewood back then, but budget played a large role, too. I was well served by low cost, highly-nutritious and better yet delicious ‘fuel’, if you will, gleaned from the pages of this highly regarded resource.

During my weekend forays into new recipes, I learned more about protein combinations in beans and legumes, and the properties of various leafy greens than I realized—until I found myself regularly spouting off nutritional facts to whomever might be helping me make dinner—many years beyond that silly half marathon. The recipes and the ‘prose’, if you will, are simple and elegant. This offshoot of my old ‘master’ text, New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes, is for the Moosewood initiated, the local and environmentally sustainable-inclined consumer, and/or the novice cook who must make changes to her diet, doctor’s orders.

Sure, with this book you’ll become a maser of the Glycemic Index without even realizing it. That’s part of the appeal of Moosewood books; you absorb scientific knowledge as easily as you digest the delicious meal you’ve made from these simple recipes. Moosewood is not preachy, but it will subtly change your eating habits for the better. With far less effort than it takes to run 13 miles, you’ll attain practical nutritional knowledge—and you well have many simple, favorite recipes in your repertoire—for the rest of your life.

by Katharine Wray

9 Dec 2009

“Detective Vic Mackey kills cops, steals money, and beats suspects,” writes PopMatters Quentin Huff. “This thing’s going to get a lot uglier before it gets better,” says Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) in the “Back to One” episode. Gotta love that. This collection is perfect for the die-hard The Shield fan. This crime drama broke a lot of records and stereotypes with it’s convincing, layered characters and plot developments that would (some would say) blow the long-running Law & Order out of the water. In addition to all 88 episodes, and clever packaging, this collection includes 63 hours of extras from commentary to unseen footage. Sweet.

by Bill Gibron

8 Dec 2009

In an important scene from the 1985 dramedy Educating Rita, the title character, a working class London gal trying to succeed at university, discusses a recent family outing with her professor. As the clan gathers in a local pub, singing the standard football chant pop hit, Rita looks over and sees her mother crying. “Why are you crying?” she asks. Her mother responds, “I just sat through a screening of Rob Marshall’s god-awful Nine,” she replies. Actually, that’s not the line at all, but it could be. What Rita’s mum does say is “there must be better songs to sing than this” and she’s right. Why anyone would take a middling musical from the mid ‘80s, a show celebrated for both it routine revue format and clueless riffs on Fellini’s 8&1/2, and turn it into a big budget awards season wannabe is anyone guess. Even with the post-Chicago pedigree of the director, it still seems like a stretch.

And the reason is rather obvious. Forget the casting, which includes six Oscar winners and one nominee among its eight leads. Ignore the fact that Marshall makes the mindbogglingly dumb decision to stage all the songs in a single soundstage setting, ala the finale of All That Jazz (a far, far better 8&1/2 homage, by the way). Even remove the uneven performance from Daniel Day-Lewis (who’s really more Godard than Italian maestro here), the blank as a fart version of “Be Italian” by acting-nonentity Fergie, or the smoke and mirrors, duct tape and pancake piecing together of 75 year old Sophia Loren. At its core, Nine is just an awful musical. The songs are almost instantly forgettable, the overall style failing to capture any of the swinging Roma reality of Mediterranean cinema circa 1965. If Marshall really wanted to try something different, while equally unexceptional, he could have skipped this excruciating epic and tried his hand at reviving the biggest belly flop in all of Broadway - the failed take on Stephen King’s Carrie.

The truth is, Mr. “Man Who Would Make Pirates of the Caribbean 4” is that there are dozens of better songs to sing than this - musicals both old and new, already part of the big screen canon and those simply dying to get their cinematic screen test. From novel post-modern twists on the stage type to hoary old favorites, Marshall could have picked any number of known and unknown projects and propelled them to this level of mediocrity. To target a show with an already huge built-in flaw - no matter what 1982 Tony voters thought - is like a Kiss of the Spider Woman death. So if and when he gets the chance to take another Great White Way (or Off) title to Tinseltown for approval, may we suggest something a little more…meaningful. Indeed, these five fresh examples and equal number of necessary remakes argues for a less star oriented and more show-ccentric approach. We’ll begin with the established efforts just waiting to be update:

Possible Remakes

Jesus Christ Superstar

While no one can argue with Norman Jewison’s inspired “hippies in the Holy Land” approach to the show, there is something timeless about Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s supposed “rock opera” that could easily translate into something thoroughly modern and magical. With the right cast, the right reinvention, and the right filmmaker behind the lens, this could be a wonderful win/win for anyone willing to take on the mandatory controversy and convert this now dated effort into something completely contemporary.
 
 
 

The Wiz

Sidney Lumet is a genius. He is a filmmaker force few can compete with. That being said, he was the worst choice to bring the soulful reinterpretation of Frank L. Baum’s fairytale to the big screen. Sure, his decision to recast New York City as a seedy ‘70s Oz was inspired, but that’s about it. The rest of the effort - from crap casting (Diana Ross? Nipsey Russell? Richard Pryor?) to uneven execution - screams out for another attempt. And when you consider the wealth of talent currently burning up the urban and mainstream pop charts, sitting on this show seems pointless. 



My Fair Lady

If there is a role in a timeless musical that is perfectly suited for the abilities of one Daniel Day-Lewis, it’s not that of floundering Fellini Guido Contino. No, the upper crust phoneticist Prof. Henry Higgins would be perfect for the actor’s lanky grace and contemplative muse - and unlike previous poster boy Rex Harrison, Day-Lewis can actually sing. For once, we’d have a Higgins who actually plays with Alan Jay Lerner’s magnificent melodies instead of sullenly sing-speaking them. Of course, the biggest problem would be finding an appropriate Eliza Doolittle. Perhaps the best thing about Nine - Marion Coitlland - could figure out a way to get her cockney on and make this all happen.



A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Zero Mostel was a Broadway god in 1966. Richard Lester was equally hot, having just guided the Beatles through both A Hard Day’s Night and Help! So it seemed totally apropos that the two should come together to create the big screen version of the actor’s star turn in the Stephen Sondheim farce. Sadly, the movie was manipulated by a studio that saw more Fellini than 42nd Street in the show. Lester’s loopy stagings, including some questionable casting and plot reconfigurations, rob the show of all its bawdy burlesque trappings, leaving Mostel to do all the heavy lifting. With a collection of classic songs, this begs for a post-millennial make-over.



Man of La Mancha

Another case of very questionable casting. Peter O’Toole is one of the great actors of all time. Sophia Loren is no slouch herself, all sex and slow burn sadness. But neither of them can carry a tune in a bucket…with help. So what better way to recreate the recent Broadway hit than fire original Quixote Richard Kiley (who won a Tony) and replace him with Lawrence of Arabia. Or give the vocally demanding role of Aldonza to a woman of very limited singing skill. Perhaps Terry Gilliam can give up his dream of making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and team up with two musical ready stars to give this much maligned show a new lease on life. 


Waiting to Be Made

Company

Granted, Stephen Sondheim can be a very difficult composer to convert to film. Just look at the movies of his shows that made it (Sweeny Todd…umm…hmmm…) with those that haven’t (A Little Night Music…umm…hmmm…). In fact, this brilliant post-modern reinvention of the genre would be perfect for today’s commitment-phobic demo. The storyline revolves around a single man who’s not married, the walked wounded wedded couples who compete for his attention, and the desire for all to find real love and connection. With the right cast and a visionary behind the lens, this could be the next big Hollywood - and cultural - hit. 


Starlight Express

With CG and 3D so prevalent nowadays, this Andrew Lloyd Webber effort about toy trains coming to life seems ready for its cinematic close-up. Perhaps Pixar could champion the title, using its own unique blend of movie magic to take this rail-Cars to new heights. With some gorgeous animation, the added dimensional gimmick, and a lot of poppy disco beats, this could translate across generations to be a confirmed kitsch classic. Why someone has jumped at the chance to do this - or Cats for that matter - within the confines of the new cartooning format is flummoxing to say the least.


Two Gentlemen from Verona

While the lyrics for Hair were all peace and love proclamations, it’s the amazing music that keeps the show in the decades-removed memories of the audience. While composer Galt MacDermot’s track record after the ‘60s smash was sketchy at best (Dude? Viva Galactica?), this Shakespeare-based show was a huge pop culture achievement. Hardly anyone in the early ‘70s didn’t know its name - heck, it even beat out Follies and Grease for the Best Musical Tony in 1971! And since the story is all about love unrequited and betrothed, it has the makings for a truly memorable irreverent melodic RomCom.


Big River

Okay, so Roger “Dang Me” Miller isn’t the first name you associate with Great White Way success. But when the former “King of the Road” decided to adapt American literary classic Huckleberry Finn for Broadway, his homespun aw-shucks approach really resonated with audiences. Running for over 1000 performance, it made a megastar out of John Goodman and remains a singular work within the genre’s ‘80s minded love affair with big, gaudy productions. Done up right, with actual locations and a true regard for Twain’s words and wit, it’s a modern masterpiece just waiting to be discovered.


Smile

Smile is a lot like Hairspray. It was first a warmly regarded comedy by Michael Ritchie, a small indie effort about the most satiric of all entertainment scenarios - the beauty pageant. Then it was turned into a musical by hot composer Marvin Hamlisch (who won a Tony and a Pulitzer for A Chorus Line). It would be interesting to see this redone as a big splashy production with first class Tinseltown talent and a new found perspective on these meat locker make-over fests. As long as the director doesn’t fall in love with the faux celebratory theatrics of the concept, this has greatness written all over it.

by Thomas Hauner

8 Dec 2009

Recording artist Elvis Perkins and his multi-instrumentalist band of minstrels visited the Bowery Ballroom last Friday, gently closing the gap between folk and rock along the way.  It was the first of two stops in the city in support of his latest effort, Doomsday EP, recorded with his trusty backing band Dearland.  Fittingly, the group’s set began with a dirge, Perkins and his associates main lining through the Ballroom for “Slow Doomsday” before fully unwrapping it upon reaching the stage.  Their sound ached and moaned in all right spots—something that Elvis Perkins in Dearland maintained all night.  Though the audience’s dysfunctional dynamics often became their own distractions (the quiet half of the crowd yelling at the less attentive half to shut up; couples making out while groups of guys high-fived each song; Facebook updates from the first row) Elvis and his brilliantly adaptable band managed to transcend it all.  Jumping from folk intimacies like “While You Were Sleeping” to “Stop Drop Rock and Roll,” Perkins proved his bygone lyrics could transform any style in his repertoire.  But it wasn’t entirely Elvis.  A pair of violinists provided swaths of drama to numerous tunes while a trumpet player joined trombone player, gorgeous harmonizer, and instrumentalist Wyndham Boylan-Garnett for a brassy introduction to the full-throttled version of “Doomsday,” which wrapped up the band’s set.  Its beer-hall oomph was rowdy and visceral enough to get even the meekest crowd members bobbing (namely the boys from opener Bowerbirds yelling out to Elvis from the front row.)  The brief revelry felt as old-fashioned as Perkins’ standard-issue frames, but his insightful lyrics and beautiful arrangements won’t go out of style anytime soon.

by Gregg Lipkin

8 Dec 2009

“This is the new sound; just like the old sound.”
—Rage Against the Machine, “Ashes in the Fall”

It’s one of rock’s most apt paradoxes.

By 1999 Rage Against the Machine held a singular place in the rock and roll landscape. They had suggested a new genre, rap-metal, with their self-titled 1992 debut, and given the genre legitimacy with their 1996 follow up Evil Empire. Both were vivid, visceral works that made Rage Against the Machine Masters of the Form. 

The Battle of Los Angeles, which would prove to be the band’s last album of original material, was another step forward displaying a musical focus and strength of songwriting absent from their debut and only hinted at on Evil Empire. The album itself is a musical paradox, a work of sonic maturity burning with youthful fire that favors the force of textured subtlety over mere blunt force. The Battle of Los Angeles is an album of revolutionary new music that leaps forward while pointing back towards the band’s previous work, and upon its release it was a new sound that sounded just like the old.

“With precision you feed me”
—Rage Against the Machine, “Testify”

Rage Against the Machine and Evil Empire had both sounded unplanned, like works of musical spontaneity—the first of anger and the second of invention. There is nothing spontaneous about The Battle of Los Angeles, it is a measured masterpiece, a collection of songs that sound deliberately plotted and precisely performed without ever feeling deliberate or stale. The entire album still feels spontaneous because it continually yields unique sounds for rabid Rage fans to devour. Drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford play like pistons in an engine of fury. The album bristles with rhythm that is excessively heavy, increasingly funky and incredibly supportive of Tom Morello’s musical experimentation. Morello is in masterful form throughout, and much of the album’s entertainment value stems from how he coaxes new sounds from his guitar and effects pedals. 

Rage Against the Machine chased listeners through random speakers before violently attacking, but The Battle of Los Angeles puts listeners at the opposite end of the struggle. “Testify” opens with a swirling wall of guitars that listeners fight through in order to get to the song’s riff and the wall continues to swirl through each of the verses before giving way to the riff again when the chorus hits. “Calm Like a Bomb” is nearly consumed by the high pitched clean tone that weaves its way throughout the excessive crunch of the rhythm, like a fuse’s lit flame that inches its way closer to the inevitable explosion. Morello is more DJ than guitarist on “Mic Check” and “Sleep Now in the Fire”, which find him treating his guitar like turntables and scratching the solos, and part blues singer as he delivers an amazing “harmonica” solo on “Guerilla Radio”.

“Whatcha say, whatcha say, whatcha say what!”
—Rage Against the Machine, “Calm Like a Bomb”

If The Battle of Los Angeles has a flaw it lies in its lyrical content. Zack de la Rocha had clearly grown as an MC from Rage Against the Machine to Evil Empire and that growth continues on The Battle of Los Angeles, but as a lyricist it can be argued that he gives the average listener, even an incredibly intelligent listener, too much to handle.  He is incredibly verbose and he seems to go out of his way to point out every social injustice that angers him. So, as on the group’s first two albums, while it is abundantly clear that he is angry, it is just a bit difficult to keep track of all the things he’s angry about. However, his vocal performances on The Battle of Los Angeles are easily his best out of all three of the band’s releases. De la Rocha does more than simply scream as proof that he is impassioned. He whispers and growls. He utilizes volume as a vocal instrument on “Born As Ghosts”, “Maria”, and “Voice of the Voiceless”. More than anything though, his passion is so accessibly packaged that it becomes far more intoxicating than his anger. It’s invigorating to hear him take a stand even if you’re unsure exactly where he stands.

“I’m deep inside your children”
—Rage Against the Machine, “Sleep Now in the Fire”

The Battle of Los Angeles is angry, inventive, and exhilarating to listen to and it is a fitting final chapter for Rage Against the Machine. The band reintroduced anger to rock and roll, and in doing so, they connected deeply with teenagers who were angry and in need of music that would reflect that. Rage did more than connect; they penetrated the soul like a tattoo and became permanent. They were true Masters of the Form that roared with passion and prompted an entire generation of teenagers to do so as well.

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