Film

The 2005 YATS Image Awards

Mark H. Harris
Image from the (ahem) 'Source' Awards

Sick and tired of the same old faces getting the same lame accolades from the media? In his ongoing attempts to keep it 'real', Harris presents his personal picks and pans from the previous entertainment year.

Of all the awards shows out there, this one is mine.

Best Reason Why the Only Usher I Want to See in a Movie Theater Is the One Taking My Ticket:
In the Mix. I've seen better plots in R. Kelly videos...and not the music ones.

Lowest Black Turnout for a Movie:
Elizabethtown. If these people were any whiter, they'd be clear.

Most Eagerly Anticipated Sequel:
How Stella Got Her Groove Back Part II, or How Stella Lost It Again When Her Man Up and Went Gay. Maybe it should be a buddy cop pic: "He's a gay Jamaican! She's a middle-aged novelist! They're partners! Stella II: Armed and Desperate.

Most Steadfast Dedication to the Paper Bag Rule:
Kevin Hill. OK, Taye, just because these actresses are darker than your wife doesn't mean you deserve a cookie.
Runner-up: Soul Train

The Maybe-He-Only-Gets-Crappy-Movies-Because-He's-Not-As-Funny-As-I-Thought Award:
Eddie Griffin

Lifetime Dubious Racial Achievement in Casting Award:
Ron Howard. Would it kill you to throw in a black character here and there? He doesn't even have to survive to the end. Just give him a couple of lines and a heroic cause. Not even The Andy Griffith Show or Happy Days had any black people. 'Happy days' indeed...if you're a Nazi.

Most Unsettling Hair:
Shemar Moore in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Madea's hair looked more natural.

Movie Whose Title Poses a Question You'd Least Like to Have Answered:
Guess Who. I'd rather not.

Didn't-Realize-He-Was-Still-Alive-Before-He-Died "In Memory Of":
Nipsey Russell

Most Irrelevant $20 Million Star:
Chris Tucker

Biggest Fall From Grace:
It's a tie!
Winner #1: Wesley Snipes. He was once an up-and-coming "actor" with blockbuster potential. Now, in between Blade movies, his straight-to-video action feculence fights for shelf space in Blockbuster with Casper Van Dien.
Winner #2: Lou Gossett, Jr. Most recently seen in Left Behind 3: World at War, starring Kirk "My Teeth Are Blessed by God" Cameron. Some may call it the Curse of Oscar, but I call it the Curse of Iron Eagle.


Makes Me Feel Slightly Embarrassed of My Race Award:
Bobby Brown

Makes Me Feel Slightly Better About My Race Award:
Blue Collar TV. It balances out The Parkers.
Runner-up: Kevin Federline

Elizabeth Taylor Distinguished Achievement in Senility Award:
Bill Cosby

Louis Farrakhan Award for Racial Harmony:
Madagascar. Chris Rock as a zebra who's the best friend of Jewish lion Ben Stiller, only to find out that when his pal's "true self" comes out, he becomes a carnivore who wants to devour him.

Best Film to Dis in Order to Piss Off a White Person:
Sideways. Try something like, "They call it Sideways because that's the position you'll be in after you finish watching it."

Quickest Box Office Exit:
G. But thanks for playing.

Worst Rapper-Slash-Actor:
50 Cent. He raps like his jaws are wired shut; how do you think his acting is gonna go? Mediocre musician and mediocre actor, he's the 'hood Hillary Duff. How can these musicians be actors if they can't even act like good musicians?

Best Rapper-Slash-Actor:
Ludacris. Granted, that's not so impressive when the runner-up is The Artist Formerly Known as Lil' Bow Wow.

Newest Black Television Stereotype to Replace the Angry Black Police Chief:
The black guy on a medical investigation show.

Best Reality Show:
Run's House. Understated, colorblind everyday family issues that don't revolve around race, rap, or rims; a godsend, if only to break up episodes of The Gauntlet.

Most Delusional Reality Show:
America's Next Top Model. OK, so we get a "top" national model straight off the street, like, every six months?

Most Dubious Prize from a Reality Show:
R U the Girl. The winner gets an opportunity to perform once on stage with TLC, and if they like you, maybe you'll get something more (like a plane ride home). R U kidding?

Silliest Dance Fad:
Krumpin', as seen in Rize. I mean, really, how many times can you punch air before you just look crazy? Four, maybe five tops. But when you reach double digits, people start rushing to wedge a wallet under your tongue.

Most Conspicuous Absence of Black People:
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Where are all the sisters?

Worst Attempt to Fill the Gap Left By Dave Chappelle:
Weekends at the DL

Book I Most Want to See Turned into a Movie:
Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine "Superhead" Steffans. The first movie I'd pay to see Shaquille O'Neal in.

Movie I'm Least Proud of Being Directed By a Black Man:
Fantastic Four

Worst New Hollywood Trend:
Black reincarnations of white classics: Kojak, The Honeymooners, Guess Who. I'm waiting for DukeZ of Hazzard, with a Black Power fist on the roof of an Escalade.

Annual Martin Lawrence Flop:
Rebound

Worst Attempt to Make an Action Star Out of a Rapper
Ice Cube, XXX: State of the Union. I never thought I'd say this about Ice Cube, but he should stick to kids movies; the scowl isn't what it used to be.

The You-Ain't-No-Oprah Award:
Tyra Banks, whose 14-year-old, after-school special target audience has made her the new Tempest Bledsoe. It's easy to be such a proponent of natural beauty when you actually have natural beauty.

Most Inspirational Movie:
Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Not spiritually inspirational, but creatively. I can only imagine how many screenwriters this movie gave birth to in an "I could write that" kind of way.

Most Conspicuous at Acting Lower Class: Halle Berry in Their Eyes Were Watching God. At least she didn't purr.

Closest That Morgan Freeman Will Ever Be Allowed to Come to Starring in a Film By Himself:
March of the Penguins. See also Unleashed, Batman Begins, and An Unfinished Life (J-Lo, for Christ's sake!).

The Hardest Working Man in Show Business Award
Terrence Howard

Perhaps He Shouldn't Work Quite So Hard Award
Anthony Anderson

Movie Who's Set-Up Most Resembles a 90-Minute Episode of Three's Company:
The Man. I imagine that at some point there's an extended Abbott and Costello-like riff on who "the man" is.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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