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Tuesday, Aug 22, 2006
by PopMatters Staff


DJ Never Forget
Going To Work mix mp3


Tracklist:


Hot Chip A Glue Too Thick
Portugal The Man How The Leopard Got Its Spots (Blake Miller Remix)
The Kingdom Love is my Nation (Copy Mix)
Cassius Toop Toop (Olivier Koletski Mix)
The Knife We Share Our Mothers Health (Trentemoller Remix)
The Klaxons Gravity’s Rainbow (Van She Remix)
Flow Flux Clan Fascination Street
Lo-Fi-Fnk vs Karin Strom Psykos (LFF Club Mix)?
Justice Vs Simian Never Be Alone?
Mstrkrft Work On You


DJ Night homepage: www.myspace.com/fingeronthepulsenyc


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Monday, Aug 21, 2006

When studios and filmmakers grouse over the effect DVD has on the box office, it’s usually day and date that they argue over. Back in the days of VHS, a major mainstream movie would wait several months before finding its way onto videotape – and even then, it was typically in a rental-only format. Sell-through didn’t arrive until much later, and with it came the death of such delays. But now, fans want titles as soon as possible, and for many in the industry, the faster a title arrives on the digital format, the lesser the likelihood an audience will visit the Cineplex to seek it out. This ‘wait and see…it at home’ principle has been blamed for the 2005 slump, and the diminishing returns for some high profile releases. This week, we have a clear example of this perplexing paradigm. A certified bomb from May makes its DVD debut a mere 12 weeks after it flopped in theaters. The question becomes, will the digital presentation be a hit, or will the film’s obvious flaws guarantee and equally fast exit from the brick and mortar. And what will it mean to day and date? We will just have to wait and see. Joining the cinematic shipwreck is a diverse collection of movies, including:


Double Indemnity: Special Edition*
For many, it’s one of the last DVD Holy Grails, a classic Billy Wilder film noir unconscionably left off the digital domain for far too long. But the fact of the matter is, Image Entertainment released a version of the seminal crime thriller back in 1998. This time around though, Universal does the title right, tossing in a pair of commentaries, a documentary, and even a TV movie version from 1973. Whatever the presentation parameters, this is one timeless example of Hollywood’s heyday that deserves to be on every film fans shelf.



Kicking and Screaming: The Criterion Collection*
Perhaps in preparation for a future visit to his critically acclaimed The Squid and the Whale, writer/director Noah Baumbach sees his first film, a story about disaffected college buddies who can’t quite commit to the responsibility of the real world, get the full blown Criterion Collection treatment. Witty, insightful, and just a little too in love with the notion of the campus as the last bastion of full blown freedom, Baumbach and his capable cast manage to make these pseudo-slackers symbols of the mid-90s malaise that swept over America.



Phat Girlz
There’s no denying the fact that, as a stand-up comedian, Mo’Nique Imes is talented. She is crude without being gross, cutting without resorting to racial slurs. Sadly, the same can’t be said for her movie career, which spans bit parts in Baby Boy, Soul Plane, and Domino and leading roles in Hair Show and this latest offering from April 2006. Using her plus size physique as the foundation for a film about love and acceptance, Phat Girlz tries to deliver a sincere message about the media’s role in shaping female body image. Too bad it’s trapped inside this lame, laugh-less excuse for entertainment.



PopMatters Review


Poseidon: 2 Disc Special Edition
It was the crappy capsizing heard round the cinematic world. Who would have thought that Wolfgang Peterson, responsible for the excellent actioners In the Line of Fire and Air Force One could screw up this remake of the beloved Irwin Allen disaster epic of the ‘70s. Sadly, with casting only The Love Boat could appreciate, and an overabundance of unconvincing CGI, what should have been a summer blockbuster slamdunk for Warner Brothers is now appearing a mere 12 weeks after the film opened in theaters. Even on DVD, it’s still a waterlogged waste of time.



PopMatters Review


Silent Hill*
Forget what you’ve heard about this film – that it’s merely a big screen translation of a far more frightening video game, that it’s The Descent without the claustrophobic cave setting – and settle back for a creature feature for the ages. Brotherhood of the Wolf director Christophe Gans outdoes himself in the mood and mystery department, taking the Playstation platform title and making it his very own. Featuring stellar performances and unnerving effects, Silent Hill represents the pinnacle of creepy, atmospheric horror. It is the most satisfying movie macabre in a very long time, and coming in a year when Hostel and The Hills Have Eyes redefined the genre, that’s saying a lot.



PopMatters Review


State of the Union*
A true forgotten gem from the oeuvre of three of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters – Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and filmmaker Frank Capra – this timely political allegory about the difference between one’s personal and public persona couldn’t be more timely, especially in our 24 hour a day media coverage mentality. Though Universal fails to flesh out this release with significant contextual bells and whistles, this DVD is still worth owning if only for the moment when Tracy tries to address the nation while a drunken Hepburn lashes out at “the other woman”. Talk about feeling ripped from today’s headlines.



The Wizard
Far be it from Short Ends & Leader to deny the retro resplendence of this love letter to Ninetendo and its Super Mario Brothers. Indeed, The Wizard represents a veritable right of passage for anyone who grew up under the hypnotizing influence of the NES game system and those crazy, mushroom stomping plumbers. With a young Fred Savage as the older brother of Jimmy “The Wizard” Woods and more nods to arcade culture than a weekend at E3, this simplistic plot about familial appreciation and a video game championship predated our current Xbox/Game Cube standard. Back then, professional gaming seemed asinine. Today, it’s every adolescent’s dream job.




And Now for Something Completely Different

In a new weekly addition to Who’s Minding the Store, SE&L will feature an off title disc worth checking out. For 22, August:


Tromeo and Juliet: 10th Anniversary Edition*
Marking the second DVD go-round for this beloved Troma title, the Bard’s basic story of star-crossed lovers is fused with a scatological punk rock sensibility to create the first ever gross out version of a Shakespeare play. Perhaps more amazing than the awkward performances, plentiful gore, and abundant nudity is the number of unknown actors and crewmembers who went on to become famous fixtures in both Hollywood and the Indie film scene. They include screenwriter James Gunn (Scooby-Doo, Dawn of the Dead) Will Keenan (Operation Midnight Climax) and current reigning b-movie scream queen Debbie Rochon.


*=PopMatters Picks


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Monday, Aug 21, 2006

Yesterday in The New York Times Daniel Askt argues in an article in the business section that long-tail marketing (which I also talk about in this column, which went up today) will ultimately squeeze “midlist” works, echoing John Cassidy’s point in this New Yorker review. Akst thinks long-tail marketing leaves us without adequate filters:  “The digital revolution may have opened the door to an infinite variety of products, but human attention remains a finite resource, and the costs of ‘search’ — of sorting through all this stuff to find what you might like — are high. If anything, the exploding availability of songs, videos and text that Mr. Anderson heralds in his book will only raise these costs. Technology and user recommendations can help, but in my experience they’re a long way from ideal — and may only reinforce the importance of blockbusters through a kind of avalanche effect that starts small but grows uncontrollably.” The notion that searches cost us, that our attention has become a kind of currency we must spend wisely, seems interesting—search presents us with too many options, which initiates “the paradox of choice” where we are made miserable by too much opportunity. But I don’t know about Akst’s lament at the loss of one particular filter, the filter of professionalism and the use of earnings as a way to detect worthy culture.


Akst claims that the presence of more amateur and niche product in the cultural marketplace will have no effect on blockbusters, but will obscure the efforts of those who take the trouble to professionalize their work. Once they could earn enough to survive; now those who once bought their work will entertain themselves with amateur content. Akst argues that “Mr. Anderson underestimates the role of earnings in this whole arena and the professionalism that they underwrite. The digital revolution may be empowering amateurs even as it undermines the ability of blockbuster-free professionals — who often do the best work in writing, music and other fields — to make a living, since the long-tail effect is redistributing downward the scant share of rewards that the pros now enjoy.” Akst thinks these are “the body and soul of culture” and I suppose he’s right, in the sense that they reflect the cultural bias that regards profit as certification. Only by making money from your art do you legitimize what you are doing; only this way are you a “serious” artist or writer. Your commitment is shown by making the sacrifices necessary to live by your art: to market yourself appropriately, to cave in and become a relentless self-promoter, to be in a semi-permanent state of doing business, networking, opportunity seeking. I tend to wish it weren’t so and imagine a world where the quality of work could be recognized independently of its marketability (where people had more options than to vote their pleasure only with dollars), and where sheer participation in art making is held to be more important than trading commercial art products. (I wish that such amateur productions—things made without a view toward profit, made with a volunter’s spirit—could be the heart and soul of culture, not the middlebrow manufactured culture that Askt defends.) The “long tail” seems to emphasize the wrong side of things—the sale rather than the production of the works far down the tail into obscurity. I have a naive faith in the idea that the joy of making something can be separated from the joy of finding an audience for it (and the need to enter into the market to find that audience). Once, an audience of a few people was significant, in scale with what was technically possible. Now anyone can broadcast to theoretical millions. This will be the cudgel used to discourage people from active creation, or at least keep them dependent consumers.  As the participatory Web gathers momentum, we’ll here more and more about how amateurs become professionals, how whimsical creators become entrepreneurs, and these people will be made the standardbearers, and those bloggers out there writing for next to no one will be encouraged to feel foolish and trivial.


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Monday, Aug 21, 2006
by PopMatters Staff


Uzeda“Steam, Rain & Other Stuff”
From Stella on Touch and Go Records
Uzeda is a four piece band that hails from Catania, a city in the region of Sicily. Catania is known for its close proximity to Mt. Etna, a volcano so consistently explosive that it makes the most obvious and closest point of comparison for Uzeda’s music.



Lambchop“Crackers”
From Damaged on Merge Records
Lambchop have been perfecting, performing and recording the New Nashville Sound for going on 15 years now. It’s still just as refreshing and vital today as it was in the beginning. More so, even. Lambchop is a loose music collective of anywhere from five to 17 players, all assembled around the center of gravity that is lead singer and songwriter Kurt Wagner.



Supersystem“White Light/White Light”
From A Million Microphones on Touch and Go Records
Refusing to be satisfied by the familiar, Supersystem has always been ready to destroy a song in order to put it back together again. Hip-hop, electronica, punk rock, so-called “world music” – a little bit of everything has gone into the architecture. This destruct/construct reflex is groomed and refined on the NY/DC quartet’s latest long player, A Million Microphones.



Birdmonster“‘Cause You Can”
From From No Midnight on spinART Records
Birdmonster is not your typical quartet. They will not stand still and stare at their feet. They will not whine about their girl troubles. They will not devolve into aimless instrumentals or rehash tired ‘80s fads. Birdmonster plays rock and roll. And they play it with enough energy and reckless abandon that when you find them after the show, they usually smell like barnyard animals and can barely breathe. Someone is probably bleeding. And everyone is very happy.


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Sunday, Aug 20, 2006


Thank you, Snakes on a Plane. Thank you for proving what many in the print media and critical circles have long ago known and voiced concern over. Though it is currently the most powerful information and communication source on the planet, the Internet just can’t open a film. Unless you’re first name is Blair, and your last name is Witch, the Web has once again proven that it can’t put filmgoer butts into empty Cineplex seats. Now, there are a lot of factors involved in Snakes less than spectacular $15 million box office weekend bow. There’s the movie itself, a perhaps too ironic stab at a self-created schlock spectacle. There’s the piss poor timing – released right as the core audience (teens and college kids) are heading back to class. And there’s the genre elements themselves: in general, horror and thrillers are the least bankable of all the cinematic styles.


But none of that was supposed to matter. Why? Because Snakes had the power of the technology geek behind it. From the moment the title was made public, and the talent coups of Samuel L. Jackson and director Ronny Freddy vs. Jason Yu were announced, the ‘80s nerd and his post-Gen X cousins were all in a cross-posting lather. Raised on a vast VHS collection of crappy monster movies made by companies like Full Moon and Empire, and distributed by names such as Vestron and New Concord, this seemingly routine creature feature suddenly took on the air of a retro reminder of Saturday nights perusing your local Mom and Pop video store. Even When Yu dropped out (the first sign of the upcoming anticlimactic apocalypse) and Final Destination 2 director David R. Ellis stepped in, the web journal junkies smelled undeniable direct to video fodder, and gladly got onboard.


It is important to remember though just who the real DSL demographic truly is. It’s claimed that over 60 to 65 million homes in the USA have Internet access of some kind, with the mean age for the actual user somewhere between 26 and 33, depending on the survey you select. While computers are constantly sited as the dominion of the young, teenagers spend significantly less time in media oriented arenas or serious surfing, instead preferring to use the web for communication, interrelation, entertainment (downloading) and – in rare instances – education. Most of the people browsing the vast array of sites are not part of MySpace, could care less about YouTube, and would never spend hours creating their own trailers or photoshopping poster art. Therefore, logic dictates that anyone pimping an upcoming film, from Harry Knowles over at Ain’t It Cool News or Garth Franklin at Dark Horizons, is speaking for a very small group of people outside of the typical broadband user. And, more times than not, they are preaching to the already converted.


A perfect analogy to this situation is talk radio. On any given day, millions of people tune in to hear Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, or any number of local variations on their chat fest theme. Of that number, only a very small fraction would ever consider calling in and voicing an opinion or asking question, with even fewer actually picking up the phone and dialing. Therefore, the voices you hear as part of the ballyhoo represent only the smallest portion of the overall public. In general, we are not an extroverted lot. Even with the anonymity of the ‘Net, we tend to let others do the showboating for us. In the case of Snakes of a Plane, there was no true communal surge in interest. No, even with numerous magazine articles, TV feature spots and endless marketing hype, the film itself was only talking to a very small, very vocal pre-tuned in audience. And while they were cheering, the rest of the possible fan base was jeering, or just paying no attention at all. 


Truthfully, this should be nothing new to studios that have relied on the web as a source of that all important word of mouth advertising to lengthen the “legs” of their film. Just two weeks ago, The Descent opened to some of the best reviews of the year. Critics called it a masterpiece, one of the best horror films of the decade. Even with a Region 2 DVD release available for months prior, speculation across the ‘Net was that this Indie fright fest would make a killing at the box office. In its first weekend, it barely made $9 million. True, it was up against the good old boy goofiness of Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights, but conventional wisdom argued that all this blog-based goodwill should have translated into Cineplex receipts. It didn’t happen.


It used to be that studios more or less shunned buzz, either because of the expectations it built or the fatalistic foreshadowing it created. On occasion, they would ride the coattails of positive speculation, using it almost exclusively as a Madison Avenue money saving device. Yet right after Artisan scored a knock out with its Blair Witch Project website campaign (used to create a false sense of reality in this otherwise fictional macabre mockumentary), the Internet became the unproven false idol being worshipped by those desperate to make a dent in the media morass. It was the dot.com revolution all over again, except this time, the World Wide Web was being used for promotion and propaganda only. No one remembered that ONE extreme example does not set the standard. Without a track record, the ‘Net is a more or less untested gamble, and one that rarely pays off. 


It’s no wonder then that Snakes on a Plane was a fluke. It was destined to fail based on the entire technological bent of the hype, and even then, there was just a title, an actor, and a promise at the center of it all. Success can’t be measured by a kitschy name and an A-list celebrity. If that’s the case, non-existent pitches for product like Zombie Strippers Against the All Nude Apocalypse starring George Clooney or Robot Drug Lords featuring Angelina Jolie would be going great greenlit guns right about now. In time, when all the Monday morning quarterbacking is over, and the studios have sorted out what went wrong, the conclusion will be clear. As much as they like to believe that they are, the messageboard masses do not speak for the mainstream. They are their own loud, loyal constituency. Getting them involved guarantees a palpable amount of free publicity – but that’s it. The day the blog brigade can generate a true blockbuster opening will represent a landmark occasion in the ‘Net’s ongoing maturation process. As for now, said opportunity has again slithered away.


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