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Thursday, Feb 15, 2007


Back when television was the only important cultural game in town, the notorious ratings period known as “Sweeps” actually mattered to the viewing public. They knew that, during this advertising extravaganza when networks and local affiliates pulled out all the scatological stops for that extra speck of viewership, something sensational was typically in the offing. Sadly, it seems that the modern concept of this carnival of creative programming is made up of more episodes of American Idol, extra installments of Dateline‘s “To Catch a Predator” and as many reality style shows as possible. Even the cable channels have pulled up stakes and refused to follow the undeniable hype. The choices for the week beginning 17 February are good, but not the kind of gratuitous grandstanding the concept of Sweeps evokes. Still, you’ll enjoy most of the choices, beginning with a certified SE&L favorite:
:
Premiere Pick
Hustle and Flow


It may be tough for a pimp, but 2005 was a magical year for filmmaker Craig Brewer. With this look at a world-weary street hustler hoping to break out of his dead end life by becoming a rapper, the novice director delivered a staggering drama with real depth and heart. At the center of this sensational film is the terrific Terrence Howard, offering a star making turn as Djay. He brings real empathy and emotion to what could have been a crude cardboard cut out. Equally effective are the sequences where Brewer shows how hip hop tracks are formed – creativity culled from the bottom up, a combination of inspiration and ingenuity. It all works together wonderfully, melding effortlessly into one of the year’s best films. (17 February, ShowCase, 8PM EST)

Additional Choices
Longford


This made for British television biography of the Lord of Longford, a champion for controversial causes in the UK, comes to American cable thanks in large part because of The Queen. Indeed, Peter Morgan who wrote said reimagining of Elizabeth II’s battles with Tony Blair over the death of Princess Diana, also scripted this tale about a celebrated child killer – and Longford’s efforts to free her. (17 February, HBO, 8PM EST)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


After the amazing work Alfonso Cuoran did with Prisoner of Azkaban, many in the Potter fanbase feared that Mike Newell, best known for Four Weddings and a Funeral, would be unable to rise to the challenge of this material. Luckily, those qualms were alleviated when Newell delivered what many consider to be the second best installment of the series. (17 February, Cinemax, 10PM EST)


The Wild


Get ready to yawn as Disney delivers yet another subpar cartoon cavalcade relying on the no longer novel element of CG animation to sell its shortcomings. Mimicking Madagascar, this tale of a ‘city’ lion accidentally shipped off to Africa and the group of wisecracking zoo friends who come to his rescue is so routine it grows stale before the middle act arrives. (17 February, Starz, 9PM EST)

Indie Pick
Lost Highway


David Lynch, hot off his success with Twin Peaks and the debacle that many considered its big screen incarnation, Fire Walk with Me, decided to abandon all pretense of mainstream acceptance, and instead focused on honing his already odd dreamscape style. The result was this amazing motion picture, as much a study in cinema as it is a look at character duality. Bill Pullman plays a man plagued by anonymous videotapes of his household – and a murder he may be responsible for. Before we know it, the story shifts, and Pullman is now Balthazar Getty, a young mechanic caught up in an affair with a mysterious mob moll. In between gorgeously shot sequences, a white faced demon (played by Robert Blake, of all people) haunts the characters, bringing the world of nightmares to Lynch’s illogical lushness. (18 February, IFC, 10:45PM EST)

Additional Choices
Bomb the System


For those unaware of the phrase, “bombing” is old school ghetto lingo for graffiti. Back in the day, when urban youth had little to celebrate, spreading your name all over the city via spray paint and talent was a metaphysical escape. This fiction film does a good job of capturing the culture, and while Style Wars is the definitive documentary statement, this movie manages a close second. (20 February, Sundance, 11:30PM EST)

Walker


Alex Cox went from punk to politics when he followed up his sensational Sid and Nancy with this incredibly odd period piece. Ed Harris is the American mercenary fighting for the Nicaraguans in the 19th century, but it’s clear that Cox had more on his mind than this specific situation. Using a mixture of modern and antiquated imagery, it was really an attack on Reagan and his problematic El Salvador stratagem. (21 February, IFC, 10PM EST)

Short Cuts


The late, great Robert Altman took the short stories of Raymond Carver and turned them into a stunning portrait of LA at the start of the ‘90s. Using his standard interlocking narrative structure, and amazing performances from an all star cast, the director delivered what many consider to be his final major masterwork. As dense as any work of fiction and just as symbolic in its statements. (22 February, Sundance, 9PM EST)

Outsider Option
All That Jazz


After a massive heart attack and more than his fair share of Broadway flops, director/choreographer Bob Fosse was looking for a way to battle his all consuming inner demons. His decision – make a thinly veiled autobiographical musical that exposed all his flaws and foibles, no matter how painful that might be to friends and family. The result was this stunning example of cinematic hubris, a classic song and dance fest deconstructed to focus on ideas like adultery, betrayal and death. Drawing on previous collaborators including Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen, and using real figures from his life (renamed and reimagined, of course) Fosse found the proper balance between backstage drama and esoteric experimentalism. It’s a brilliantly insular work of wounded genius. (22 February, Fox Movie Channel, 10PM EST)

Additional Choices
The Good Son


After years of playing the bratling hero, Macaulay Culkin (or more importantly, his dictatorial dad/manager) wanted to expand his thespian range. Too bad then that the producers went and hired Elijah Wood to steal every scene alongside Master Home Alone. What wanted to be a boys’ Bad Seed ended up being merely a bad career move on the part of a fading family film star. (19 February, Encore Mystery, 3:35AM EST)

The Serpent and the Rainbow


Zombies are real – at least they are in the veiled world of voodoo that is Haiti. Horror maestro Wes Craven, taking a break from the supernatural, used the non-fiction book by Wade Davis to discuss the ancient African religion, and the real possibility of creating “the living dead”. Light on flesh eating and heavy on authentic atmosphere, the results are creepy indeed. (20 February, ThrilllerMax, 6:35PM EST)

Clerks


By now, it’s randy reputation precedes it. It’s the film that started Kevin Smith’s career. It was awarded an NC-17 rating by the MPAA for filthy language only. It became a crazy cult unto itself, and spanned one of 2006’s best films. Now drink in the heady humor of this slacker celebration, a terrifically talky look at life and its failed personal promise. (21 February, Showtime, 12AM EST)

 


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Thursday, Feb 15, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

Two Minutes to Midnight  Black Belt—"Road Crew" from Two Minutes to Midnight on Novoton

Preview the whole album


What if you kidnapped Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop and Otis Redding, put them in a small cabin, force fed them cheap beer and greasy food, and—under the supervision of Josh Homme—made them solve the great rock’n’roll riddle? You might come up with something similar to the diverse, yet straight-forward, soundscapes of Swedish power trio Black Belt—big fuzzy guitars, fat ass bass, rolling drums, dirty denim, sweet soul and tons of swagger. With one foot running the working class meanstreets of the ‘60s, the other foot placed firmly in the black soil of the south, Black Belt proove that it’s still possible to create a stir by rolling that old rock in yet another direction. With their largest production to date, the band both roars and crumbles, whispers and cuddles—although they never lose trace of the chorus-driven nerve that made them a name in the first place. From—"Fall on Me"—a PopMatters exclusive

Sure, From is a four-letter F-word. It suits the band just fine. No song is precious. Nothing aims for utter seriousness. And it’s not a bad thing to infuse some rawness into arty abstraction. In the fall of 2004, designer Roni Brunn launched From in Los Angeles, and the lineup has been fluid since. Brunn sings and writes all the music; production and performance duties are shared. From’s sound began with the unexpecedly fecund pairing of the Stone Roses and early Madonna. Ride, Oasis, Primal Scream, and, of course, the Beatles have also influenced both the feel and the song writing. The lyrics reflect Brunn’s multinational displacement, playful sobriety, and boy-crazy attachments: very specific yet simultaneously intutitive. Dustin O’Halloran—"Opus 63" from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack, and "Opus 23" from Piano Solos Vol. 2

Piano Solos Vol. 2 is the beautiful new instrumental work from Dustin O’ Halloran. Dustin recently attracted the attention of renowned music supervisor Brian Reitzell, who asked O’Halloran to assist in the score of Sofia Coppola’s epic historical drama, Marie Antoinette. Two of the compositions on this new release, as well as Opus 17 from Dustin’s first Piano Solos album, appear on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack.


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Thursday, Feb 15, 2007

Finally!  A James Brown tribute for real, thanks to the good folks at 1st of the Month magazine.  This includes not only bookend poems by Amiri Baraka as well as thoughts and memories from Chuck D. and John Leland but also explicit and great essays from Charles O’Brien (about “Sex Machine”), Mel Watkins (about the show that became Live at the Apollo Vol II) and W.T. Lhamon Jr. (on a mid-80’s obscurity).  Also there’s this moving, spot-on observation from Watkins: “Like Aretha, Sam Cooke, and, later, Marvin Gaye, he was a both a symbol and personification of the grassroots black musical heritage that wielded such tremendous influence on America’s popular culture during the latter part of the 20th century.”  By comparison, most of the obits about JB covered the same routine ground about Brown’s life, never really capturing the magnitude of his achievements and accomplishments.


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Thursday, Feb 15, 2007

At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen wonders why it’s profitable to sell new porn when there’s such a huge amount already in circulation. ” I don’t understand why buyers demand such a regular flow of material.  Why don’t they just buy a single dense disc of images and keep themselves, um…busy…for many years?” He suggests that it might be “that buying the material yields more pleasure than ‘using’ it.” I had a similar thought in this essay, where I argue that pornography makes sex more like shopping and thus aligns the pleasures it gives closer to those we are acclimated to by consumer society, namely convenience and ownership as ends rather than means. Consumer society seems to encourage us to collect experiences rather than simply experience them; continually collecting porn rather than having sex or even masturbating seems symptomatic of this. The moment of pleasure is moved from the point of experience to the point of purchase; the pleasure is change from a sensual one to a conceptual one based on convenience and security (a stockpile of potential experiences in your porn heap defends you from the fear of exhausting desire.)


At the Economist’s blog, Megan McArdle (presumably) suspects the answer to Cowen’s porn paradox “must be some evolutionary imperative towards novelty,” and asks, “Why do listeners demand such a steady flow of new music, almost all of it inferior to, say, Beethoven’s 9th?” What’s interesting is the implicit connection between music and porn: both are digital-media products widely and controversially distributed on the Internet. Both track, in their way, trends in fashion. Both tend to be male preoccupations—especially in terms of building collections. Is recorded music analgous to the commodified desire of pornography—is recorded music to performance what looking at porn is to sex? Could the impulse to continue to acquire both stem from the same impulse, the same wish to pin down and master the excitement (in the specific sensuality and in the zeitgeist changes they record) each are able to arouse, control it and domesticate it by turning it from an experience into a possession in a ritual that must be continually reenacted? It may be that we enjoy this ritual (albeit in a kind of defensive, self-protective way) almost as much as we’d enjoy direct experience of music or sexual desire. Yes, porn makes available for direct consumption and enjoyment all sorts of patriarchial prerogatives, but I want to put that analysis on hold for a moment to make a different point about the impulse to collect. As the experience of accumulating music and porn becomes easier (as it becomes, in more and more cases, free), the moment of reassurance and mastery seems to come not at the moment of purchase but the moment of classification, when that digital file is given its appropriate place, is understood and processed and stored in some theoretically and permanently accessible way. Digital reproduction and distribution are making classification more important than ownership—tagging is all-important, very Web 2.0. We master an unlimited supply by asserting control over it, capturing it, with the unique taxonomies we generate. Novelty becomes an opportunity for taxonomy.


I think this explains the vast amount of music on my years-old iPod that I’ve never listened to once. In some significant way, the moment I drop a song on the playlist has supplanted the moment of listening to it—at that moment I am able to experience the satisfaction of the song without having to spend all that time actually listening to it. I manipulate it in a more direct and convenient way that provides me a feeling of mastery, which is what I may be looking for rather than sensual experience. The same thing seems to lurk behind porn blogs, where people curate their porn collections for public view. Something about the impulse to organize one’s fetishes has itself become fetishized. And fetishes, in general, are about containing anxiety rather than permitting open experience.


The fear that beauty (in music, in another body) inspires is that it will be lost to us; it summons an intolerable awareness of its own loss. Our culture (and not, I would argue evolution—the need for novelty seems contigent on what society can promise and provide) prompts us to defend ourselves against this anxiety by acculmulating more and more of the stuff, and we think with technology we can realize the dream of perpetual availability. (This plays into the interpretation of porn as primarily being a fantasy of perpetual female availability, i.e. of women’s objecthood, of her significance being regarded as received rather than self-generated.)


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Thursday, Feb 15, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

Girl Talk - Mix One
Check out the band in concert at Be The RIOTTT (click on screen)



You can see the rest of the set here


Girl Talk - Mix Two
Check out the band in concert at Be The RIOTTT (click on screen)



You can see the rest of the set here


Girl Talk - Mix Three
Check out the band in concert at Be The RIOTTT (click on screen)



You can see the rest of the set here


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