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by Thomas Britt

25 Mar 2009

Greg Mottola’s upcoming Adventureland extends his Superbad interest in awkward young coupling, but this time around he’s chosen a more romantic approach. The wall-to-wall music in the film is an impressive collection of songs faithful to its period (1987) and setting (Pittsburgh amusement park staffed by frustrated folks in their teens and early twenties). While the script is sometimes too eager to point out the coolness of some of the songs—through characters’ mixtapes and onscreen LP jackets—the overall effect is an earnest love letter to the soundtrack of Mottola’s youth.

Music supervisor Tracy McKnight worked with Mottola to clear the almost 40 songs used in the film, which meaningfully connects Lou Reed and Big Star to Falco and Poison. Yo La Tengo provided the score.

Read more about the film’s use of music here.


by Bill Gibron

24 Mar 2009

It was one of last year’s best films - foreign or otherwise. It was unceremoniously snubbed for Oscar consideration (favoritism found Sweden submitting another, lesser effort). It’s been praised as one of the best genre titles in the last ten years, and definitely one of the best vampire films in quite a long time. So how does Magnolia, the company responsible for releasing the mandatory home video version of the critically acclaimed Let the Right One In respond to the challenge of maintaining the magic in Tomas Alfredson subtle masterpiece? They mangle the subtitle translation so badly that some of the most important elements of the narrative are damaged - sometimes, irreparably.

A bit of background. Most fans found this film as part of the annual awards season struggle for recognition. Critics groups, like the ones yours truly belongs to, received a screener copy of the movie, complete with a set of burned in translations and the typical “do not duplicate” warnings. No bonus features, no anamorphic widescreen transfers - just the movie and its many allegorical delights. As with many year end evaluations, Let the Right One In snuck up silently, taking over many a press organization with its indelible combination of visual flair, storytelling finesse, and premise fulfillment. It was a literal joy to behold, a smart horror film that wore its metaphoric menace on its brittle, beautiful sleeves.

Of course, newfound devotees were looking forward to the day when the DVD would be released. Even more so, individuals unable to see the film during its festival runs and Best Of ballyhoo could now cuddle up with a copy of the title and be whisked away to a frozen world of suspicions, innuendo, and sly, sinister terror. Initial reviews of the package were favorable, if not completely enamored of the lack of added content, and few mentioned problems with the transfer or subtitles. Then a website known as Icons of began a campaign of complaining. Some chalked it up to fanboy geek grumbling. Others argued that the author of the post was making a mountain out of a multicultural molehill. Once the evidence was made available, however, the truth threw everyone for a loop.

As anyone who reads the image-laden article can see, Magnolia has made a mess of the Let the Right One In translation. Certain important scenes have been robbed of all their context, while slight word changes turn characters from martyrs to meaningless. It’s worth the time to traipse over the site and check it out. The modifications will stun you. More importantly, they beg a question that has plagued most film fans since the VCR made movies a viable source of personal ownership and enjoyment. How reverent must a studio be when distributing a foreign title to US viewers? For decades, supporters have laughed at poorly dubbed martial arts epics and the awkwardly worded comic conversations. This is especially true of horror films which, notoriously, have suffered through numerous video translations and debates over the proper source language (Dario Argento, for instance, shoots all his films without sound then dubs in the region appropriate track).

So it’s really no surprise that the DVD of Let the Right One In suffers from this flaw. It happens all the time. But what is stunning is the high profile nature of such a slight. When a Lucio Fulci gore-a-thon or a forgotten bit of Shaw Brothers archeology get short shrift in the transfer department, it’s par for the course. After all, no upstart distributor is going to take the time to turn a washed out, mono mixed bit of exploitation into a top rate, reference quality presentation - and no one is suggesting that Magnolia didn’t have the best interests of Let the Right One In and its admirers at heart. But when you see the pitiful excuse for subtitles here, it does make one wonder (and to make matters worse, there are rumors that the Blu-ray offers the proper dialogue, over the English dub version of the film, Huh?).

Let’s extrapolate for a moment. Studio frequently announce the release of “Unrated” or “Director’s Cut” DVDs, including material in the movie that wasn’t in the original theatrical version. Typically, there’s more blood, breasts, and borderline unnecessary dialogue scenes, all earning the special label because the MPAA didn’t have a chance to evaluate the print as pass their questionable judgment. Remember, the tag “Unrated” is different from “Not Rated”. The former once had the approval of the suspect ratings board. The other didn’t even bother to show up and screen it. This is significant because marketers want you to believe you are getting something “better” when you buy the non-theatrical edition of a favorite film. The truth is, however, that you’re only getting something different.

So why not label the new Let the Right One In in the same manner? Companies specializing in foreign films - like Criterion - frequently advertise that a newly remastered classic also contains “new translation by…”. If you don’t mind letting buyers know that you’ve altered a movie visually, or plotwise, why not mention the fact that this newest release will featuring a brand new interpretation of the script. In the Icons of Fright piece, the writer suggests that money may be involved in Magnolia’s decision. Rights over the original subtitles (and the comparative cost of creating new ones) may have been the biggest factor in why we have this new version. And isn’t that just like the TV on DVD debate, when musical cues and era-appropriate songs were replaced by different tunes in order to avoid massing monetary payouts?

Such a decision, naturally could lead to a few disgruntled customers, but wouldn’t such anger be better than the current belief that Magnolia just didn’t care about the release? And there’s the sneaking suspicion that, beyond all the initial hand wringing and kvetching, many in the moviegoing public wouldn’t know about the change, and therefore wouldn’t care that they’re missing the movie as it was meant to be seen. While it sounds cynical, filmmaking and the distribution of same is still a business, and driven by commerce as well as art. While it’s clear that Let the Right One In deserves better, we can at least be glad it’s available at all. Every year, hundreds of worthy offerings never even get a chance to shine for an audience eager for something new. Here’s hoping Magnolia answers the communal call and corrects the problem. As of now, they have definitely let the wrong one out. 

by Jason Gross

24 Mar 2009

That was the question at a SXSW panel I was on last week.  I wondered about this myself, mostly because I usually didn’t indulge in snarky (mean, snotty) music writing myself (there’s too much good stuff I wanna write about).  There is a place for snark but where exactly? 

The premise came from Dave Marsh, the panel moderator, saying that there wasn’t enough of it around anymore.  I disagreed.  Here’s what Austin360 quoted me as saying:

“Music journalists won’t come close and can’t compete with blogs and bulletin boards. And if you don’t think you’re competing with them, you’re delusional. They shape opinion whether you like it or not. Bloggers have much more influence than you think.”

Not exactly what I said though I do insist that you ignore blogs’ influences at your own peril.  What I really said was that writers in mags and pubs can’t compete with blogs and online forums in terms of snark because these places usually don’t have editors or moderators and so, anything goes.  Of course, that’s a good thing as you have a lot of unconventional voices speaking up but it’s also a bad thing as some of these voices should have shut up in the first place.  That’s just the nature of the First Amendment, right?

Another topic that got a little mangled during our discussion was Twitter, aka the hot online forum now, which of course is also experiencing a backlash.  I was saying during the panel that print publications are shrinking word counts so much that a medium like Twitter was a good place where you could practice trying to say something significant in a small framework.  Somehow that got twisted into me saying that Twitter itself was the future of journalism and would replace longer reviews.  That ain’t the way I see it though just as with other forms of writing, I don’t see why Twitter can’t extend our way of communicating about our favorite music.

Zines, like Perfect Sound Forever, also came up in the conversation.  Marsh asked why I started mine and what the purpose was.  I started PSF ‘cause I was bored and lonely (definitely not anymore) and I wanted to shed some light on good performers from the past and present (and maybe future) who hadn’t gotten enough recognition.  In terms of our snark topic, my feeling was that many zines don’t doll out bile (unless it’s towards major publications or what’s seen as fat-cat artists) because their reason to be was to talk about things that the editors didn’t think were getting adequately covered elsewhere.  That kind of void usually leaves little room for snark (unless your Maximum Rock’n'Roll).

Going back to Marsh’s basic premise of why there’s less snarky music journalism out there, I had two theories: 1) right now, many writers and editors are too worried about their jobs to be too critical, 2) many other writers are worried about being cut off from promo lists if they get too mean in their reviews (of course, there’s the magic of downloading to overcome such concerns).

I do think there’s room for negative comments and thumb’s down- after all, do we really just wanna read how every album’s great?  In fact, there’s room for good negative constructive journalism- the best recent example is Carl Wilson’s 2004 article about Prince Paul’s The Politics of Business album and why it’s failure was significant. And of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum like Pitchfork’s thoughtless take downs of Black Kids and Travis Morrison.  But just so you think that there isn’t room for funny snark out there, I do like PF’s slap at Jet.  It’s juvenile but it’s also pretty damn hilarious and in its own way, much more creative than paragraphs of prose dumping on the album would have been.

by PopMatters Staff

24 Mar 2009

Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks and released their new album Tangled Tales today and yesterday Christel Loar raved about the album saying of Hicks that he is “a man and musician who’s spent the last 40 years defying classification. He and his band the Hot Licks bring a little blues and a little country, a dash of jazz and a bit of bluegrass, all sewn up in some swing to its sound. Of course, there’s always plenty of Hicks’s singular lyrical prowess. With a dry wit and sharp turn of phrase, his rhymes are unusual and often unpredictable, his delivery is delightful, and his timing is impeccable.” Here’s his new video from the album as well as upcoming tour dates.

March 25 Belly Up Tavern Solana Beach CA
March 26 El Rey Theatre Los Angeles CA with Special Guests Van Dyke Parks and The Ditty Bops
March 28 Yoshi’s San Francisco CA with Special Guest David Grisman
April 03 One Longfellow Square Portland ME
April 04 Bull Run Shirley MA
April 05 Iron Horse Northampton MA
April 06 BB King’s Blues Club New York NY
April 07 Turning Point Piermont NY
April 09 Stage One at the Fairfield Theatre Company Fairfield CT
April 10 Sellersville Theater Sellersville PA
April 11 The State Theater Falls Church VA
May 12 Uptown Grill’s Playlist Theatre LaSalle IL
May 13 Logan Square Auditorium Chicago IL
May 14 Turner Hall Ballroom Milwaukee WI
May 15 Majestic Live Madison WI
May 16 Cedar Cultural Center Minneapolis MN

by Diepiriye Kuku

24 Mar 2009

It would take motherhood to free the Material Girl from the juvenile exploits of one-way love and abandonment. Marvin Gaye sang, One way love is just a fantasy, perhaps just as fantastical as Madonna doing Marilyn Monroe in the Material Girl video, and still years later showing out that she was born a real Bad Girl:

That’s the way I came into this world/The doctor said, “Lady, she’s a beautiful girl.”/He gave me a spanky and I started to smile/So give it up, honey, ‘cause I want it/Yeah

The girl portrayed here on the Dick Tracy soundtrack, as we all in many of Madonna’s public personae like to be abused, at least in her sexual fantasies. However the home fantasies are a bit more real, perhaps finally resolving the grief over loosing her mother at such an early age. Notably, her beats seriously evolved upon releasing Ray of Light; she has come out, embarking on that journey of self-love, the real resolution. Still, I wondered if our cherished pop superstar would have been better off listening to some of her hometown brothers and sisters across the color line.

Whatever the emotion, there is a gospel that expresses a love lost deeper than any punishment we would feel from parents who failed to mourn and recover from the loss of their spouses, denying their kids love and attention, so they grow old with the only confidence that they just declare their independence by any means necessary. Indeed, Jeremy spoke in class today, and all he could do was takes his father’s gun and shoot. He felt unloved, and powerless, so he reached for the only real power he’d seen his father use, one which he too could abuse and harm others in the same way he had felt loved, and abandoned by his parents who refused to meet him, Jeremy, on his grounds. They refused to parent, according to Pearl Jam’s 1992 alternative rock hit, so he met love with abandonment and shot himself dead at school. Don’t you think that people learn abuse at home? How many Jeremies must our nation produce before we begin to appreciate that we gain more from cooperation, which implies dialogue on every level, i.e. at home and at the community level. Indeed, a people who feel unloved are capable of anything. A people who feel loved are capable of everything.

Madonna faced these issues at 40 upon the birth of her first child. From then onwards, she continued a string of recordings critiquing Hollywood, and a variety of aspects covering American Life, including much of the imagery that she helped generate (“Music stations always play the same songs”). Madonna has certainly profited from her reign as queen of pop and received her share of airplay. At 50 with two baby-daddies, and in a doomed marriage, Madonna found the courage to ask How High: It’s funny/I spent my whole life wanting to be talked about/I did it/just about everything to see my name in lights/Was it all worth it?/And how did I earn it?/Nobody’s perfect/I guess I deserve it. This was in this millennium. I just wish she’d heard her fellow Detroit native remake Sam Cooke’s composition, a meditation on forgiving oneself as a way of moving on:

Sometimes, I’ve had to cry all night long/Sometime’, I had t’ give up right/Fo’, what I knew was wrong/Yeah/It’s been an uphill journey/It’sho been a long way comin’

These words remind us that we matter, that we can determine our own fate, so that by Madge’s age we could have a system in tact to heal from life’s inevitable conflicts, and losses in order to abate abandonment or even the sheer feeling of terror, like the terror one feels when realizing that they are gay and may have to tell their families. Coming out at sixteen, Madonna’s Deeper and Deeper was an apt anthem, but what happens after the love is lost? What happens once the myth of childlike innocence collapses and we must resume our lives? Shall we not forgive ourselves for being weak, as Marley says? Or, following Aretha way back in 1967: Yeah everybody let the good times roll/We’re gonna stay here till we soothe our souls /If it take’ all night long. Do it till you’re satisfied, so that we can feel free.

Where even today’s young divas like Beyoncé, or even Kelis can act Bossy and somehow get away with stuffing themselves with D-diamonds on my neck/D-diamonds on my grill- all chains of the modern female, yet chains nonetheless. Sooner or later we can’t help but look at ourselves in the mirror, not just at images posted on billboards and big and small screens. The weaning time from the seduction and self-defeating nature of stardom must shorted, so women can enjoy the limelight without reducing themselves to hot wet pussy slipping and sliding on stage, whining about how some man should come set me free- unlock her chastity belt and pop her cherry Like a Virgin, because apparently there is a sizable market of consumers who yield to the popular(ized) fantasy of screwing a school girl. Certainly, this is why young girl sex sells in porn, or pop divas pop their hot bodies in school uniforms, recording their music videos on the set of some school. That damsel in distress has never worked for Black women in America, not so much as liberation is concerned, which has of course been atop the American agenda. Imagine Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth waiting on God and heaven for their salvation. Rather such original divas manifest destiny here on Earth, Here and Now, as Luther would say.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

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