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Thursday, Jan 18, 2007


Finally, SE&L has a new Friday format in place. Instead of focusing exclusively on the premium channels and the Saturday evening ‘event titles’ they feature, we will scan the weekly offerings to highlight a few independent and outsider efforts as well. This way, you don’t have to stick with the frequently mediocre mainstream selections. Instead, you can venture out into the realm of documentaries, classics, horror and foreign films to discover a preferred tele-visual repast. For the week beginning 19 January, here are the small screen possibilities:


Premiere Pick


Walk the Line


Boy oh boy does Tinsel Town love actors who can sing and dance. Indeed, critics went crazy for this Johnny Cash biopic, with most noting how honorable it was to see leads Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon singing the songs in their own voices. Similar to Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter (but unlike Jessica Lange in the Patsy Cline drama Sweet Dreams) the result was an Oscar for Witherspoon, serious consideration for Phoenix, and a decent box office run. Frankly, there is much more to this movie than a couple of younger generation Hollywood superstars warbling a collection of country and rockabilly classics. Both leads do something that’s rare in a cinematic biography—they get to the true heart of their celebrated counterparts. (20 January, Cinemax, 10PM EST)

Additional Choices


Big Momma’s House 2


Following Eddie Murphy’s formula for failing career rehabilitation, former blue comedian Martin Lawrence dons drag once again to portray that infamous obese black woman. Nothing more than a poorly concealed cash grab. (20 January, HBO, 8PM EST)

The Libertine


Johnny Depp puts on the period garb (yes—AGAIN! ) to play the 17th Century poet The Earl of Rochester. Overloaded with debauchery and attempted era authenticity, many found this to be a repugnant trip into the past. (20 January, Starz, 9PM EST)

The Longest Yard


Adam Sandler steps into Burt Reynolds shoes, and shows why, as an action hero, he should stick to comedy. Featuring Chris Rock and support from the former ‘70s box office king, it’s a genial if generic effort. (20 January, Showtime, 9PM EST)


Indie Pick


New York Doll


One of the best experiences a viewer can have is going into a movie cold, not knowing anything substantive about a story, and coming away mesmerized and moved. This is the experience most film and music fans will have when visiting this heroic and heartbreaking documentary. After moving to LA, director Greg Whiteley discovered that Arthur “Killer” Kane, bassist for the infamous New York Dolls, had survived decades of drugs and self-indulgence to become a fellow Mormon. Determined to tell the story of his rise and fall from star to street person, Whiteley learned that the Dolls were planning a reunion—and wanted Kane onboard. It resulted in a journey back to his rock roots, and for the director, a devastating portrait of a fragile human being rebuilt. (22 January, Sundance, 9:30PM EST)

Additional Choices


The Devil’s Backbone


In the first installment of what may end up being a fantasy meets Fascism trilogy, Guillermo Del Toro looks at an orphanage where both the ravages of war, and a solemn boy ghost, haunt the very walls. (20 January, IFC, 5:25PM EST)

George Washington


When their actions turn fatal, a group of children in an impoverished small town band together to cover up the incident. While it sounds simple, writer/director David Gordon Green’s morality tale is a complex, spellbinding wonder. (21 January, IFC, 3:10PM EST)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg


Featuring an original score by Michel Legrand, this charming French musical (almost every conversation is set to song) reminds us that romance can be as weird and whimsical as an all singing spectacle. (25 January, Sundance, 7:15PM EST)

Outsider Option


Bubba Ho-Tep


Bruce Campbell deserved an Oscar nomination for his turn in this brilliant genre deconstruction. Playing a nursing home patient who may or may not be the real Elvis Presley (an impersonator plays an important part in the backstory), he brings a real emotional depth to what could have been a wholly craven caricature. After meeting up with Ozzie Davis’ JFK (don’t ask…) the duo battle a soul sucking mummy who has decided to target the elderly and infirmed. While horror fans will lap up the numerous scare sequences, what’s striking here is the acting ambitions of Campbell and Davis. These two bring a kind of humbling humanity to their otherwise over the top persona, and make this one of the best independent films ever. (21 January, IFC, 3:45PM EST)

Additional Choices


Curse of the Demon


Dana Andrews, and one incredibly creepy evil spirit, dominate this story of an ancient curse and the paranormal scientists who must defeat its unearthly effects. Featured as part of Rob Zombie’s TCM Underground presentations. (21 January, TCM, 2AM EST)

Night of the Comet


One the ‘80s best, this combination of teen potboiler and end of the world zombie-thon has some interesting things to say about the end of the world—and how adolescents deal with it. Great effects and post-apocalyptic atmosphere. (21 January, Flix, 10PM EST)

Rollercoaster


Back when Sensurround was an over-hyped gimmick (basically, a set of humungous woofers stacked inside a wooden box), this was its biggest hit. In truth, it’s nothing more than a cat and mouse thriller with the title amusement at the center. (24 January, Encore Drama, 2AM EST)

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Thursday, Jan 18, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

The View - Wasted Little DJs


“Musically, the history of Dundee, Scotland isn’t exactly littered with success stories. Indeed, the city has only two notable additions to the pop canon: The Associates and The Average White Band. But all that is about to change with the advent of The View, the city’s newest and greatest white hopes. Four alarmingly young (average age: 18) friends from the same housing estate, The View are comprised of Kyle, Keiren, Peter and Steve and formed from the ashes of an old covers band they formed at school, playing everything from Squeeze to The Sex Pistols. After deciding just over a year ago that their ambitions stretched considerably further than hawking “Up The Junction” around the pubs and clubs of Dundee, they began writing and rehearsing their own songs in the backroom of their local, The Bayview Bar (hence the band’s name). They soon settled into a “Monkees-like existence” of playing and writing together to the exclusion of much else. The last gang in town spirit comes across in their brilliantly bombastic debut album Hats Off to the Buskers—14 songs bursting with scrappy, swaggering teen spirit—to be released on 1965/Columbia Records on March 13th. Produced by Owen Morris (producer of the Verve’s Northern Soul and Oasis’ Definitely Maybe) it was recorded in rural Yorkshire in two weeks in May of 2006.”—Columbia Records

Pharoahe Monch - Gun Draws


“Pharoahe Monch debuts an internet-only video for his new single “Gun Draws,” which addresses the topic of gun violence. In this song, Pharoahe expresses his views from the standpoint of a bullet. In his refusal to edit the video’s “too graphic” content for television video outlets, the decision was to put this video on the internet.”—SRC Records

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Thursday, Jan 18, 2007

Hopefully you remember the 60’s garage classic “96 Tears” by Question Mark and the Mysterians.  Well, it seems that Question Mark (yes, that’s his legal name now) had a fire which burned down his house and took his belongs (including a lot of history with it).  More details about it in this article.  Also, if you want to help or just pass along well wishes, you can reach QM at P.O. Box 96, Clio, MI 48420 USA or through his MySpace page.


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Thursday, Jan 18, 2007

It’s strange to think of the intensely private musician Jandek as an icon of what the Internet has done to music, but I think he exemplifies the phenomenon of how the Web aggregates people around obscure interests and solidifies them, intensifies them, perfects them into a form fit for proselytizing. Thanks to the Internet, Jandek went from impossibly obscure, noted only in a few small impossible-to-find ‘zines and in a very, very few passing mentions in the national press, to being intensely and minutely documented, accessible to anyone who somehow became curious about him. For a long time Jandek preserved an almost total anonymity, which amplified the significance of what little information he revealed (through enigmatic album covers, cryptic lyrics and messages scrawled on the catalog sent out by his record label, Corwood Industries). That would seem an awkward, almost contradictory juxtaposition with the way in which the Internet makes massive amounts of information available on just about any subject. But in fact, Jandek records mimic certain notable features of online life—they often seem spontaneous and feature anonymous collaboration, and they hold out the promise that one can maintain an identity in art than is entirely separate from who you are in real life, that you can use technology to sustain a pseudonym that was nonetheless deeply, harrowingly personal and intimate.


Also, the self-published nature of Jandek’s work was a kind of harbinger for what we all take for granted now, that you can pour your deepest inner secrets out into cyberspace and fantasize if you want about a potential audience of millions. Or you can just rest with the notion that you got it out there, whatever you needed to express, and someone might stumble onto it somehow. Almost all of Jandek’s work resonates with that feeling of relief at having found an outlet, of having managed to externalize something fraught and nebulous. Just as now one can create avatars that only exist online, Jandek only existed as the sounds captured on tape (until recently, when he began performing live); like Warhol with film, Jandek seemed to be recording the process of his own discovery of what his medium could be made to conjure, what kind of identity it could mediate and emotions could it express when you began with the absolute minimum of skill or polish, when you have no shortcuts, no traditional methods, and no professional expertise to fall back on. (A good example of this is a 15-minute track called “The Beginning,”  his first using a piano, on which he tries out many different ways to conjure moods and feelings with the instrument without having appearing to have any particular melodies in mind. In fact, most of Jandek’s work rejects melody completely, looking for other ways to summon feeling.)


My history with Jandek’s music is probably typical: I’ve been interested in Jandek since I first read about him in Spin magazine in the 1980s while I was still in high school. It’s hard to remember how scarce information on music was then and scarcer still were weird records like Jandek’s, so I had nothing to go on but a few evocative paragraphs from the “Underground” column describing each of his seven or eight albums at the time, which was enough to implant the name Jandek in my memory permanently. At first it was enough to just know the name. The very idea of a desperate-sounding and reclusive loner self-distributing purportedly unlistenable albums was entertainment enough when I was a teenager, when the despair of others still seemed like a joke to me. It wasn’t until I was in college that I first heard Jandek. Most of the record-store aesthetes I began to associate with tended to dismiss Jandek with an attitude reflected in Kurt Cobain’s remark about him in 1993: “Jandek’s not pretentious, but only pretentious people like his music.” You would have to pretend to like his music to get other people to think you were extreme or eccentric yourself. It was considered party-clearing music, again something you would play only for laughs, not something you would actually put on to listen to seriously.


I got a copy of Jandek’s 1987 album Blue Corpse either from a thrift store or a cut-out bin, and I probably listened to it a few times, but I didn’t feel authorized to actually like it. I found it hard to listen to, almost embarassing, like watching someone cry in a hospital. And I had no context for what I was hearing either; I hadn’t heard any folk-blues then, or any avant-garde noise music, or even the Shaggs—all essential reference points. Plus it was impossible to to tap into any opinions about it from anywhere or even access basic information about its place in the Jandek canon. There was no accessible commmunity of fans or critics to make listening to that difficult music seem to pay off. So the main use I made of the record was to fill out mix tapes with its short songs and try to impress people with my extensive breadth of musical knowledge—that was a lot easier to do back then too. Now it almost wouldn’t even make sense to attempt that ploy; all the obscurities in the world are at the fingertips of anyone with an Internet connection.


I sort of forgot about Jandek then through the 1990s; I never would have thought he had kept making albums. But after going to see a few outsider art exhibits, I thought of him again, how perhaps his project could be likened to Henry Darger’s epic painting cycles or James Hampton’s Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly. And it occurred to me to try something I had just begun to get in the habit of doing: I looked Jandek up on the Internet and found this, Seth Tisue’s guide to Jandek, which remains the most comprehensive Jandek resource around. Well-designed and organized, the site made Jandek into a coherent field of study, a discipline, something clearly legitimate. The vast repository of lyrics and album covers not only made it clear that a singular artistic vision was at work but offered a challenge, an invitation to attempt to develop a scholarly mastery of it all. He seems less an anamolous curiosity, clearly no joke. And his recent string of public performances have freed him from his own Salingeresque myth, allowing his work to stand a bit more on its own. It’s no longer needs to be understood in terms of that specific mystery, which does nothing to dispell the mysteriousness he never fails to evoke. If you respond to album titles like Staring at the Cellophane or Living in a Moon So Blue, or to covers like these:



... you should probably be listening. They are pretty evocative of the general aesthetic at work, with the possible exception of the mid 1980s noise-rock albums (Modern Dances especially). Whereas before, the information on his catalog was scattered, piecemeal, suceptible to being overwhelmed by isolated moments of uncomfortable strangeness that would prompt me to want to dismiss it, now it’s collected together, makes the catalog approachable, legible. We take the context of “normal” music so much for granted—it ties into famliliar pop traditions and the musicians promote themselves in customary ways that have become second nature to us. But Jandek + the Internet = a new way to build essential context for our listening that is free from mainstream distribution channels are dependent instead on the network of individual listeners sharing their enthusiasm and collective passions.


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Wednesday, Jan 17, 2007


As part of a new feature here at SE&L, we will be looking at the classic exploitation films of the ‘40s - ‘70s. Many film fans don’t recognize the importance of the genre, and often miss the connection between the post-modern movements like French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism and the nudist/roughie/softcore efforts of the era. Without the work of directors like Herschell Gordon Lewis, Joe Sarno and Doris Wishman, along with producers such as David F. Friedman and Harry Novak, many of the subjects that set the benchmark for cinema’s startling transformation in the Me Decade would have been impossible to broach. Sure, there are a few dull, derivative drive-in labors to be waded through, movies that barely deserve to stand alongside the mangled masterworks by the format’s addled artists. But they too represent an important element in the overall development of the medium. So grab your trusty raincoat, pull up a chair, and discover what the grindhouse was really all about as we introduce The Beginner’s Guide to Exploitation.


This week: Doris Wishman gives us two nudist colony classics.


Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962)



Screen star Blaze Starr (who, oddly enough, only made a couple films) is tired of the grind of Hollywood and the celebrity lifestyle. She is also tired of lugging around two, huge bowling ball-sized breasts in a series of elaborate chestical infrastructures. She wants to get away from the pressure. She wants to get away from the endless nightclub appearances and pasty fittings. And she especially wants to get away from her greasy agent/fiancé/manfriend, if only to avoid getting oil stains on her fashionable gowns. After accidentally seeing a nudist camp film, she is captivated by the lifestyle, and before you can scream “don’t let them out,” Blaze is running around a local sun worshipper resort, under the shoulder boulders blowin’ in the wind. And there she falls for camp director Ralph, a swarthy tree stump in oversized shorts who seems to appreciate Blaze for her less…obvious assets.


Quite frankly, this movie is comically disorienting. It is not because director Doris Wishman moves away from her standard nudist colony film format and tries something new. Far from it. Doris is in perfect form here, shooting lamps on tables during conversation, and looping dialogue in over shots of people with glasses or phones covering their mouths. And it’s not because the nudists here are any more or less attractive. It’s the usual grab ass bag of beautiful people and those who should never, ever be shown clothed in public, let alone sans pants or panties.


No, there is something more devilish going on here, more fiendish and frightening. Honestly, the feeling of unease exists because of Ms. Starr’s chest…her mounded mammaries, her incredibly goofy gazongas. There is just something…how should it be said…freakish about them. Odd. Weird. Disturbing. By the time Blaze made this film she was far from the salad days of her early Burlesque career. And she obviously visited a back alley plastic surgeon to get her hooters to properly lift and separate. Unfortunately, she must have visited a passageway near a lunatic asylum, because some demented doc saddled our red headed beauty with a set of jugs so substantial that even a skilled milkman could not contain them. They sit on her clavicle like two misshapen reflecting garden orbs, and pounds of pancake makeup, literally, are swabbed all over them in a mad attempt to make them look less manufactured. Part of the fun of Blaze Starr Goes Nudist comes from serious contemplation of just what the hell is going on with her bust. Or what it resembles. Heads of genetically mutated cabbage? Overdeveloped Jiffy Pop popcorn? Pink Balloons stuffed to bursting with cottage cheese? It boggles the brain pan.


In the DVD department, Something Weird Video gives Blaze Starr Goes Nudist an absolutely gorgeous transfer, with only minimal scratches or age defects. The color is vibrant, especially in the all important flesh tone area. For extras, we get some archival footage of Ms. Starr in all her early blazing glory that intensifies the obtuse qualities of her new, late in career, cinematic bosom. We are also offered the “generic” trailer for the film. There is no title mentioned or offered, so that various permutations could be dubbed in later, to suit audience taste (or perhaps to fool the rubes into thinking they were going to see something different). It’s a true scarcity when a film can offer a bit of bare bawdiness, and address serious issues surrounding breast enlargement and enhancement procedures. Blaze Starr Goes Nudist does for silicone and saline what Doris Wishman does to cinema and directing: turns them into a puzzling, entertaining enigma.

Nude on the Moon (1961)



Jeff is a sexually frustrated scientist who pumps all his testosterone into space travel and a planned trip to the Earth’s satellite with the Professor, an arch associate with well-marbled hair. Unbeknownst to our obsessed lunar loon, his incredibly fertile secretary Cathy is willing to let him juggle her moon rocks - anytime, any place. Well, as with most plots involving far-fetched ideas, a relative drops dead and leaves Jet Jeff Jaguar enough greenbacks to search for intergalactic cheese whiz. So he and the Prof drop by Buck Rodger’s rummage sale, purchase some silly space togs, and blast off into the Milky Way. Being the first men on the Moon, they claim the scientific discovery of the ages (and something that Neil Armstrong would, oddly enough, never mention): everyone on the planet is nude, playing volleyball and/or sitting on rocks. Jeff immediately falls for the Queen, who resembles his undersexed secretary except without all those annoying Playtex accessories. Will Jeff stay with his newfound moon doll? Or will he return to earth, and teach Cathy about docking and re-entry?


Those who believe that Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek set the tone for serious science fiction are completely wrong. Doris Wishman, well known for her future shock foresight and space sensibilities, made many a male want to wander into the heavens in order to boldly grope what no man had groped before with Nude on the Moon. This is one of the best of the Doris Wishman nudist camp classics. It maximizes the inherent weirdness of Wishman’s unreal directing style with the indubitably bizarre surroundings of the only South Florida nature lover’s resort that looks like a combination Mayan spa and Morlock granary. Add to this grindstone as grindhouse plenty of wrinkled and sun-leathered bodkin bearers and several semi-striking model/actresses, apply pipe cleaner antennae, and you can tell ILM to kiss your asteroid. The result is a true alien landscape, one that seems recognizable and yet completely exotic and unsettling.


As for the all-important moon mission footage, Doris didn’t require complicated computer animation or difficult optical effects. Just borrow Captain Video’s backdrop and impose a flaming tampon over the vast cardboard galaxy to simulate a rocket launch. Shazam! Instant outer space opera! You don’t need Kubrick and his heavy handed 2001 philosophizing when Doris can offer the “feel” of galaxy surfing without any of the unnecessary realistic effects shots or talking computer pontifications? You may not rendezvous with Rama, but you will definitely feel spaced out.


As one of the earlier DVD releases from Something Weird Video, Nude on the Moon offers a spectacular full screen transfer but little else. The additional archival short subject is nothing more than a fake lunar landscape and a middle aged burlesque queen exposing her aurora borealis for the world, and the leering moon men, to see. Aside from the trailer and some poster art, that’s it. However, one can actually imply a special feature, if one wants. Wishman was one of the few exploitation directors to understand the importance of musical underscoring, since she wasn’t going to be bothered with frivolous soundtrack items like dialogue. So one can sit back and enjoy the brassy be-bopping, hip, happening lounge lizard strip show meets The Man with the Golden Arm style of cosmopolitan cool urban jazz constantly playing in the background as an imagined additional audio track of the isolated score. And the theme song is just the ginchiest. Nude on the Moon is the perfect kinky DVD cocktail. It takes a fifth of flesh, a splash of Angora sweater bitters, some rocket fuel, and just a hint of va-va-va-voom, and creates a truly intoxicating interstellar highball. It may not unlock every secret of the universe, but it does explain why Darth Vader is doing all that heavy breathing.


Image Entertainment’s‘s DVD Double Feature of Nude on the Moon and Blaze Starr Goes Nudist was released on 9 January, 2007. For information on this title from Amazon.com, just click here


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