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BILLY F. GIBBONS: Desert High

April 22nd, 2021

“Desert High” is one of the more idiosyncratic and evocative tracks from Hardware, Billy F Gibbons’ third solo album, out June 4 from Concord. The song, available now, takes the form of a narrative tone poem with mysterious instrumental accompaniment. It clearly derives inspiration from the high desert location of Escape Studios where the Hardware recording sessions happened last summer. The album was recorded by Gibbons along with drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Austin Hanks. Both Sorum and Hanks, it should be mentioned, are based in the California desert these days with Gibbons front and center.

The song, which is recited by Gibbons with his gruff, yet lyrical, delivery cites desert imagery that is specific to the area around Joshua Tree, California. The companion video for “Desert High” finds BFG cruising a dusty desert landscape in a clapped out ’65 Dodge and was directed by Harry Reese and produced by Matt Sorum who also brought “West Coast Junkie,” the album’s previously released track, to the screen.

Apart from scorpions, cacti, snakes and eagles, the song makes reference to three illustrious musical souls, two of whom are long departed and the other still very much with us. In the song, Billy says/sings:

“The desert toad takes me for a ride
The Lizard King’s always by my side”

The Lizard King is, of course the alter ego of the late Jim Morrison of the Doors. It should be noted the venom of Bufo Alvarius, species of desert toad is a powerful natural psychedelic. The Moving Sidewalks, Billy’s pre-ZZ Top band, shared concert bills with the Doors in the late ‘60s as they did with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Jeff Beck Group (with vocalist Rod Stewart).

Later, in “Desert High,” Billy recites:

“The Joshua Tree
Gram died in room eight and left it all to Keith
Just a couple of miles from the salt and sea”

“Gram” cited in the song is Gram Parsons, one-time member of the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Rolling Stones (“Wild clip_image003Horses”) collaborator. “Keith” is, of course, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Parsons did, in fact, die in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn on September 19, 1973. He, of course, survives and took it upon himself to induct Billy along with the rest of ZZ Top into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2004. Richards’ friendship with Gibbons dates back many decades to the notorious string of concerts in Hawaii in the early ‘70s when ZZ Top shared the bill with the Stones. When ZZ Top showed up in Honolulu in their western regalia, Stones’ management thought they had mistakenly booked a country band, but their concerns were immediately assuaged when the ZZ Top took the stage and rocked out. “Salt” and “sea” is an oblique reference to the Salton Sea, a man-made inland body of brackish water that lies just 45 miles south of Joshua Tree.

Billy commented on the release of “Desert High,” “The song is, perhaps, not typical of Hardware as a totality but it gives indication of the album’s desiccated sonic sensibility. The desert is a truly mysterious place and we were privileged to have spent all that time there absorbing the heat, the vibe and cranking it out. It’s where natural background is at its most raw and untamed. We suspect what we’ve done is something of a reflection or, perhaps, a mirage, that relates.”

PREVIOUSLY: It is a well-known fact that only two things will survive the coming apocalypse: cockroaches and Keith Richards. A betting man would add ZZ Top to the list. After 40 years of chrome, smoke, and BBQ’d blooze licks, their party-time ubiquity shows no signs of diminishing. Wherever there are men on scaffolding, they will be there. Wherever Harley meets Davidson, they will be there. Wherever stripper meets pole, they will be there. Wherever a Don’t Mess With Texas sticker meets a mud-caked pickup truck bumper, they will be there. They were beardos before it was cool, and they will remain so long after the hipsters have moved on to handlebar mustaches.

The Top are on the road in support of their first new album in nine years, the thoroughly butt-kicking, Rick Rubin-produced La Futura, wherein, amid other strokes of bawdy genius, they rhyme “chartreuse” with “big caboose.” And they ain’t talking about trains, my friend. Friday night, they set up shop at the Keswick with three matching tour buses (one for each band member), plus an official tour dog named Gizzmo. MORE

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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Republican Bill Of Rights

April 19th, 2021

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY In recognition of Republican Jim Jordan’s tireless, and often successful, efforts to SMUSextinguish the remaining embers of American democracy, I feel it only fitting and proper that I make public what is purported to be the final draft of Jordan’s soon to be proposed twenty-eighth amendment to the United States Constitution. It is to be titled “The Bill of Republican Rights” (co-signers include Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, Tom Cotton, John Cornyn, Josh Hawley, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio). With full acceptance of Republican party racism, bigotry, xenophobia, gullibility, and armaments worship, the following rights of Republicans shall never be infringed:

1. The right to spew hate speech and propagate white nationalism.

2. The right to decree that the phrase “well regulated militia” does not exist in the English language.

3. The right to elevate QAnon to god-like factual infallibility status even though not a single Republican knows who or what he, she or it actually is … nor shall they ever be forced to acknowledge such.

4. The right to abridge the voting rights of all non-white American citizens in any manner they see fit.

5. The right to turn any health emergency into a purely political conflict including, but not limited to, the right to flagrantly disregard the conduct and precautionary recommendations–or mandates–of scientists, healthcare professionals and/or governmental authorities even if doing so will knowingly place one’s immediate family, close relatives, friends and untold numbers of other Americans they may come in contact with in danger of dying, and the entire national healthcare system at risk of total collapse.

6. The right to falsely claim “election fraud” whenever the Republican candidate loses.

7. The right to riot against any “Democrat-controlled” legislature or fairly elected Democrat office holder.

8. The right to hold all elected or appointed Republicans in positions of governmental authority “not responsible” for any of their actions.

9. The right to create and maintain an entirely two class society of haves and have-nots including making it a federal crime to be poor.

In keeping with their recognized inability to walk and chew gum at the same time, the Senate Republican caucus is scheduled to initiate action on the Jordan amendment just as soon as it gets the go-ahead from the former president. Jordan is said to have voiced his preference that said permission be granted before the ex-president starts serving time on his tax and loan application fraud convictions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up late stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

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WIRE FROM THE BUNKER: Meet Peter Case

April 13th, 2021

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Houlon2BY JONATHAN HOULON FOLK MUSIC EDITOR My contempt for radio – particularly the local variety – has been well-documented in these pages.  But at the risk of belaboring the point, let me say:  fuck you very much.  It wasn’t always like this.  1986:  I’m driving my folks’ American Eagle station wagon down the Pike in Rockville, Maryland, possibly on my way to chess club practice, most definitely not en route to rendezvous a non-existent crush, when a song came on the radio that compelled me to pull over and listen.  The ‘80s were a tough time for those of us utterly perplexed by the popularity of such bands as U2 and REM:  soul-free drivel with god-awful front men.  Don’t get me wrong.  The 90s and the rise of phony indie rock were possibly worse and, in this century, the album itself has tragically been put to rest.  But what I heard that day in 1986 sounded completely new but completely old as well.  A way forward with a steady look to the past.  I patiently waited for my favorite DJ, Weasel, on WHFS 99.1 FM out of Annapolis, to pronounce the credits in his endearingly rodent-like voice.  The song that had so gripped me was, he said, “Echo Wars” from Peter Case’s eponymous debut on Geffen Records.  I turned the wagon around, cruised over to Waxie Maxie’s and picked up the record (that’s what they were called back then without the now preposterous “vinyl” modifier).  I’ve been stalking Peter Case ever since.

Case has a new book out called Somebody Told the Truth which is a compendium of lyrics and stories from his incomparable career.  One of the tales concerns Peter dreaming a song called “Hothouse Madman” which he would later revamp into “Echo Wars” with 61p0BmvfZ0Lthe help of T-Bone Burnett who produced the aforementioned Geffen debut.  But if you really want to get a sense of Case’s incredible journey, you must start by reading the memoir of his early years, As Far as You Can Get Without a Passport, in which he recounts running away from his hometown of Hamburg, NY, while still in his teens and landing in San Francisco around 1973 as a street singer.  Case was pretty much “homeless” back then tho this was before Reagan actually invented the homeless.  I once heard Peter say that Bob Dylan moved East and went straight to the top whereas he moved West and went right to the bottom!  Somehow, Case converted his busking skills into joining the legendary Nerves who would tour the country with the Ramones in ’77 and were also responsible for “Don’t Leave Me Hanging on the Telephone” which Blondie struck gold with a year or two later.  As if that were not enough to establish a legend, post-Nerves, Case put together the Plimsouls who were enormous in LA in the early ‘80s and wrote the power-pop chestnut “A Million Miles Away” which earned a spot in Valley Girl of all places.

All of this is cool as fuck, of course, but it’s decidedly not what makes Case exceptional.  Rather, it’s his solo career which began in ’86 and continues to this day.  On the back cover of Somebody Told the Truth, musician/scribe Sid Griffin writes that Case “has the musical goods to be mentioned in the same breath as Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk, and Liam Clancey.”  Impressive company, to be sure.  But listen, Long Ryder, I’ll see you those folk legends and raise you three:  based on the music he’s made for the past 35 years as a solo artist, I would argue that Case must be mentioned in the same breath as Bruce, Butch, and, yea, Bob himself.  He’s that good, friends.  Most importantly, Case has just released a new record, The Midnight Broadcast, which to these ears couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time.

The Midnight Broadcast is an imagined radio program of sorts but not of the lifeless variety that has so turned me off to 51BY8ZX6K2Lthe actual form.  Ross Johnson – whose name I last came across on Alex Chilton’s genuinely unhinged Like Flies on Sherbert – plays the DJ and is compared in the materials accompanying the record to the voice of Finnegans Wake.  The term “Joycean” gets thrown around a lot by those without the actual background to know what that means.  The easy take is “stream of consciousness” and, yes, that applies to the The Midnight Broadcast which is certainly Case’s most untethered (or stream-like, if you will) effort to date.  But the more interesting take is from the Wake itself in which Joyce leans on a Viconian, i.e. cyclical, account of history in which past, present, and future collapse.  Case achieves precisely this with his Broadcast:  his voice – which is mic’d just perfectly in terms of capturing its humanity (i.e. it’s life force AND death rattle) – rings ancient and current at the same time.  And in this era in which the stature of the album has been demolished by streaming, Case points a way to the future:  a wider net, a broad cast.

The record’s repertoire ping pongs in Joycean fashion between the past and present.  It begins with “Just Hanging On” which Case composed in 1970 at the tender age of 15 with an already older man’s perspective.  He sings, “Since I was born I’ve been fighting time // I see the time passing and it eases my mind.”  “Hanging On” first appeared on Case’s best record from this century, 2006’s Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John, where it fit comfortably alongside the other solo acoustic numbers that populated that fine collection.  I heard Case play an astounding version of the song on piano shortly after Sleepy John was released and here it appears in that comforting gospel form but still creates, via its theme of precariousness, an unsettling start to the Broadcast.  Case also essays Mance Lipscomb’s “Charlie James” which likewise ping pongs to his own past:  thumbing his nose at any notion of commercial marketing, Case somehow slipped this Texas blues onto his second record for Geffen, 1989’s Blue Guitar, as the lead-off track!  Take that, David!  There it was ghost-like, here it is almost jaunty.  Again looking backwards from the present, Case gets around to praising Sleepy John Estes with his take on the late bluesman’s “President Kennedy” which itself reminds me of “I Shook His Hand,” a standout from the Geffen debut, which, tho not strictly about JFK, certainly brought him to mind. You get the point.

The Midnight Broadcast was recorded at the Old Whaling Church in Martha’s Vineyard.  Kudos to producer Ron Franklin for the loose-limbed but in your face sound achieved throughout.  Joyce is certainly a reference but, in a way, Moby Dick, may be the more accurate pointer.  Ishmael’s neither here-nor-there-ness permeates the proceedings.  Just as neighboring Nantucket provided a transition between life on land and life on sea, here Case gestures in both directions.  Songs such as “Grey Funnel Line” (an absolutely gorgeous number), “Farewell to the Gold” (most famously cut by Nic Jones on the seafaring Penguin Eggs) and “Captain Stormalong” are maritime through and through.  But the racetrack of “Stewball” and dusty environs of “When I Was a Cowboy” are as land-locked as you can get with or without a passport.  No matter.  It’s all of a piece and you don’t need my limn to love it.

The Broadcast will surely send you back to Case’s catalogue if you’ve never heard him before.  But here’re a few to get you started.  I’ve gotten some hate mail for including amongst these Wires from the Bunker YouTubes bereft of an actual video component.  I can dig:  music and lyrics are simply not enough to capture your wandering eyes.  But that’s ok.  By limiting myself to tracks with an actual moving picture, I was able to confine my choices to five in what otherwise would have been an impossible task of reduction.  I really love Peter!

“Put Down the Gun”:   As good as his debut was, Peter’s sophomore effort, The Man with the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar (yea, Case was working the long album title angle while Fiona Apple was still in short pants!) was even better.  Sometimes described as a record about homelessness, 1989’s Blue Guitar contains many of Case’s finest songs and is considered by many to be his best album.  Songs like “Hidden Love,” “Poor Old Tom,” “Two Angels” and “Put Down the Gun” on their own justify Case’s reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter as do opening lines like this:  “On the hills outside of town there’s a hiding place // where the green fields sway with lavender, mustard, and Queen Anne’s lace // where the silent clouds go sailing in a sea of Dutchman’s blue // and the lonesome tracks by the railroad cut make me think of you and a train we missed.”  Yea, not exactly what you’d expect from a song that really should be the rallying cry for gun control.  But the truth is Case is talking about a lot more than guns here:  he’s got his eye on everything that separates us and prevents constructive discourse.  As always, his unerring sense of melody is the great connector.

“Dream About You”:  After making as good a case (sorry, had to do it) as anyone that he invented what is now called “Americana” with his first two records, Case veered back in a more pop-oriented direction with his third LP, 1992’s Six Pack of Love, an album that he himself now largely disavows.  “Dream About You” to my ears sounds like something Lennon would have come up with had he lived into the ‘90s.  Case may, in fact, be Lennon’s only rightful heir.  It’s not just the vocal resemblance – Case has a Lennonesque way of sounding both boyish and sneeringly wise at the same time – but also that pop offerings like this one better honor the legacy of the Beatles than anything Noel or Liam ever came up with or ever will.  Case’s pop chops are second-to-none when he chooses to exercise them.  How Geffen managed to not make this a hit is a real head-shaker.

“On My Way Downtown”:  After his three-album stint on Geffen, Peter moved over to the venerable folk label, Vanguard, and released some of his strongest work to date.  His 1997 release, Full Service, No Waiting, is considered by many fans to be the equal of Blue Guitar if not superior.  As usual, the songwriting leads the way.  “Green Blankets,” one of Case’s hardest hitting songs about his early SF days, starts with this doozy: “Out in street it isn’t so bad or all that it’s cracked up to be.” Hmmmm.  “Crooked Mile” may well be – along with “I Ain’t Gonna Worry No More” from the Sleepy John LP – Case’s song of songs but my own favorite from Full Service is “On My Way Downtown” in which Case’s sly sense of humor (never jokey in the way that sinks so many of his peers) is on full display.  Poking fun at himself, he sings:  “I’m going out tonight going way downtown where my friends who died still hang around” and later “the girls are smoking cigarettes and chewing gum // they just get scared when they see my come.”  Hah!  This beautiful evocation of the past is supported by the celt-a-billy (Case’s own description) sound arrived at during his Vanguard period.  This much more recent video should give you an idea of what Case is capable of in live performance:  (1) he’s an incredible picker and (2) even sitting down, he rocks as hard as anyone around.  Stance is the issue and Peter’s is rock-folk vs. the more typical and less rawkin’ way around.

“Brokedown Engine”:  1993’s Peter Case Sings Like Hell was an initially self-released offering that served as a bridge of sorts between the Geffen and Vanguard years (the latter would actually pick it up for official release at a later date).  On this record, Peter truly brought it all back home – specifically to his street singing solo days with mostly folk and blues covers with one original thrown in for good measure.  Sings Like Hell in its immediacy and repertoire can really only be compared to Dylan’s debut.  I am particularly grateful for Case’s take on songs by Jesse Winchester and David Allan Coe, both of whom I was aware of but didn’t really appreciate until Case shined a light.  “Brokedown Engine” (shown here in a later performance at Case’s home club, McCabe’s Guitar Shop in LA) by Blind Willie McTell demonstrates why Case is the exception that proves the rule when white performers attempt to sing the blues.  Such well-meaning efforts tend to lack groove at best and veer into rank cultural appropriation at worst.  “Artists” such as Clapton, Mayer, Plant, Healey, Cray, Bonermassive, Trout, and, yea, even Stevie Ray Vaughn may play and sing the blues.  Case inhabits them.  Check out his harp work here.  Lawd have mercy!  And if that ain’t enough to convince you, see also his takes on Memphis Minnie’s “Bumblebee” and Leadbelly’s “Thirty Days In The Workhouse.”  Peter Case is the real deal, man!  

“Early Roman Kings”:  This video brings us up to the Broadcast where Case offers this more recent Bob cut from Tempest as well as a haunting, program-ending version of “ This Wheel’s On Fire” from the Basement Tapes.  On 2015’s Highway 62, Case cut a remarkable version of the Nobel Laureate’s very early composition “Long Time Gone” and throughout the years has peppered his sets with Dylan songs such as “Black Crow Blues” and “Pledging my Time.”  Since Jimmy Lafave’s passing a few years ago, Case might just be the best Dylan interpreter left standing.  I recall seeing him perform “Mr. Tambourine Man” at the late lamented Tin Angel on the day that Jerry Garcia passed.  The performance was “laser-focused” (a term that I keep hearing these days and have no idea what it means) and reduced this drug-store vaquero to tears.

To put a cap on it, I’ll quote another one of Peter’s great opening lines:  “I was standing on the corner of walk and don’t walk.”  Yes, my trusted friend, that’s about the size of it right now.  So we’ll just have to wave from across the street (or the continent itself as the case may be) in salutation and look forward to a warm embrace somewhere down the line.

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CINEMA: Destroy All Monsters

April 2nd, 2021

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GODZILLA VS KONG (Directed by Adam Wingard, 113 min., USA, 2021)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC The original King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) was a weird East meets West affair that simultaneously exploited Japan’s burgeoning obsession with professional wrestling and celebrated the 30th anniversary of Godzilla’s corporate overlord, Toho Co., Ltd, by having the two larger than life icons duke it out on the big screen. Now almost 60 years later, we are getting an American-produced rematch that wants to be the Batman Vs Superman of the Legendary Monsterverse. The primary difference here is that director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) fully embraces the humorous, weirder, more sci-fi elements of these films instead of plumbing the darker depths that the franchise has trafficked in thus far.

Kong Vs Godzilla picks up more or less where King of Monsters left off, with humanity struggling to come to grips with their newly-diminished standing in the food chain. Godzilla, who was once believed to be humanity’s protector, is on a world wide rampage. Apex Cybernetics, the military-tech giant, is desperately searching for an energy source to power a new weapon that will rid the earth of the giant lizard once and for all. The quest for said power source leads us to Kong, who has grayed up a bit since we last saw him in 1973. Skull Island, no longer the paradise it once was, has become a stormy wasteland, but they don’t know where else to hide the giant ape from Godzilla, who we discover is his natural enemy, as they are both categorized as apex titans. Leaning into Bill Randa’s (John Goodman) “Hollow Earth” theory from Skull Island, a group of scientists hope to relocate Kong in the subterranean Shangri La and, in the process, find a fabled source of ancient energy to kill godzilla.

Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) leads the charge for team Godzilla alongwith Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), an Apex whistleblower who is also trying to understand the reason behind Godzilla’s recent rampages. Even though Brown is relegated to a rather conspiracy-ridden Stranger Things-esque storyline, she has the chops to hold her own on screen.  Leading Team Kong, strangely enough, is a rather timid Alexander Skarsgård as Nathan Lind, who is playing against type as the Hollow Earth expert and ex Monarch employee recruited by Apex to escort Kong into the Earth. Oddly enough, the humanity and heart of the film lies in Kong’s story. We discover during his journey that Jia (Kaylee Hottle) a young Iwi, has taught Kong sign language and by doing so has given humanity a voice in this battle. This isn’t something completely new, since in the Toho films humanity was able to communicate with Mothra through her tiny, twin fairies.

There are two kinds of fans of American Godzilla films. Those that love the monster-on-monster madness that the franchise offers and was the bread and butter of the Japanese films, and those that can’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that not every film keeps with the more arthouse trappings of 2014’s Godzilla, Gareth Edwards’ brooding but bedazzling masterwork. While the first film in Japan was also was more of an art film, deconstructing the horrors of atomic war, with each subsequent entry (32+ films in total so far) after, it strayed farther and farther from that path to court the younger fans who showed up year after year for Godzilla ’s latest smash-’em-up adventure.

While I hate that every film these days is trying to unlock some shared universe a la Marvel, Wingard delivers a film that with its two concurrent storylines feels like it could almost topple over at any moment, but it surprisingly doesn’t thanks to its  unrelenting all-action/no-exposition momentum. Keep in mind we are four films deep at this point and it appears to all have been working up to this spectacle powered by Bayhem-esque explosions and awash in neon hues as the fate of the world once again hangs in the balance. High art this isn’t, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun, and might be the one that for me really captures the absurdity and glee of those later Godzilla films in the Toho canon. As far as Legendary’s films go this entry feels more in line with Kong: Skull Island, its loud, its bombastic and completes the franchise’s transition to popcorn tentpole, dropping all the arty pretension of King of Monsters, which no doubt will upset those looking for another dark dissection of the follies of man vs nature. Instead we have hover ships flying inside the earth and the savior of the human race is a giant monkey who speaks sign language and has a magic glowing axe. I loved every second of it.

GODZILLA VS KONG IS NOW STREAMING ON HBO MAX

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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: American Carnage Cont.

March 28th, 2021

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Hey, hey, NRA–and the political pawns you pay to perpetuate your mass-murdering ways–how many Americans did you terminate today? If that sounds radically morbid, I certainly hope so. Since 2018 some 1453 Americans have been killed in mass shootings in this country (I would have included the staggering mind-numbing year-by-year gun violence statistics but that still wouldn’t sway these conscienceless Republican killers one scintilla). Have Republican politicians EVER done anything SMUSsubstantive about gun violence? Of course not. Will they? Not a chance. Their feet and their feelings are so calloused that they can’t even sense the cold blood and bowels they perennially wade up to their calves through. Why haven’t they? Because they convulse with fear at the very mention of the words National Rifle Association. Their gutlessness, spinelessness, abject ring-kissing cowardice with respect to their gun glorifying benefactors is so far beyond the pale as to sicken even the most desensitized. And did I mention that nearly all of these fatality enamored folks proudly and unabashedly identify themselves as uncompromisingly moral, Constitution upholding, Bible believing, 10 Commandments committed, born again “evangelical” Christians. Hypocrisy hath no greater ratifiers than Republicans with fancily carved gun cabinets full of extended-clip AK-47s.

And it all began–and should have ended–with the 2nd Amendment and its famous framers that these lead-dispenser defenders so love to venerate and hide behind. Said Constitutional ammendment opens with the following words: “A WELL REGULATED militia.” Actually, those second and third words are as far as we need go. In fact, those two seemingly simple words may well be two of the most singularly significant words in the entire document. Indeed, it’s those particular words that NONE of these murdering Republican pols, gun manufacturers, NRAers, and sundry arms-bearing rights claimers can explain away, dodge, duck, skirt, spin, work around, avoid, or pretend don’t exist, no matter how hard they try. Those two uncommonly uncomplicated words exert the power to silence their every excuse, their every defense, their every argument. Yup, those famous, well-schooled-in-the-English-lexicon, carefully crafting, 2nd Amendment framers of ours could easily have used phrases like “A non-regulated militia,” “An un-regulated militia,” “A partially regulated militia,” “A private citizen militia,” “A peoples’ militia,” “A national militia,” or simply “A militia.” But, no, instead those fastidious founding fathers SPECIFICALLY and INTENTIONALLY chose the words “A WELL REGULATED militia.”

Now, let’s add the 2nd part of that Ammendment sentence: “being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” First and foremost, keep in mind that even the framers’ most futuristic projection of the term “Arms” foresaw no further than the tip of a single-shot, gunpowder, wad and ball (ramrod included), MUSKET with a bayonet affixed … which, by the way, took about 15 seconds to reload, and misfired 20% of the time due to bad reloading! Furthermore, a thorough, in-depth search of colonial records turned up no founding father/framer by the name of Nostradamus. No matter how these lying, pandering, wannabe opposition exterminators try to flip, fudge or fib about it–and I’ll grant you that the framers never intended to PREVENT citizens from owning Arms–you can bet your bloodthirsty barbaric butts that they damn sure wanted to be able to “well regulate” what KIND of Arms the people could bear, and under what CIRCUMSTANCES said citizens could or could not bear them!

So, what do you suppose would be happening legislatively regarding gun control if Republican politicos were losing THEIR sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, close friends or relatives on a daily basis as a result of mass shootings with assault rifles with extended bullet clips that were purchased through loopholes in already weak gun laws that THEY originally passed and/or now refuse to close? They’d probably be trampling themselves to get to the head of the prevention line, right? Nah, I doubt it. I sincerely doubt they’d be doing any such thing. Sure, they’d murmur a few feigned words of righteous indignation, but that would be about it. Exhibiting real grief and rage, and actually DOING something about about the situation would be risking the wrath of their cult leader, DJT, and consequently a primary challenge, not to mention that the fear of another deadly riotous march on America’s seat of legislative authority with THEM directly in its sights chills them to the bone, plus the fact that those mega campaign contributions from the gun manufacturers and the power it purchases would suddenly be heading for the nearest potty.  Keep in mind that concrete action on gun control requires at least a semblance of morality, a smidgen of selflessness, a cupful of courage, and a small degree of common decency, any one of which methinks is asking entirely too much of these self-serving serial killers. To paraphrase the now inimitable words of Don Ohlmeyer at the opening of one of his press conferences, “The answer to all of your questions is money and power.”

And, no, all you Republican slayers and maimers, Democrats aren’t trying to take your precious guns away, they’re just trying to make it as difficult as possible for all the criminals, crazies and straw purchasers out there to get them in the first place … which is a damn sight more than can be said about pitiless political pimps like YOU, and those extortionist pals of yours at the NRA and NSSF.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage octaagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

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WORTH REPEATING: The Insurrectionist In Chief

March 17th, 2021

Bannon Agonistes

Illustration by Andrew Zbihlyj

THE NEW REPUBLIC: In February’s Senate trial to impeach and convict Donald Trump for the crime of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the modern GOP had one last shot at rescuing its long-battered image as a responsible governing party. It might have reclaimed something of its former standing as an honest broker in the American two-party system, committed (among other things) to the peaceful transition of power, the conduct of free and fair elections, and each federal lawmaker’s oath to uphold the Constitution. Instead, it chose, yet again, the path of dereliction and impunity, determined to lash itself to the authoritarian leadership of Donald Trump and the white nationalist mob that brought bloodshed and threats of assassination to the halls of Congress in an effort to overturn by force President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

How could a venerable national party arrive at such a disastrous moment of reckoning, and placidly enable the forces of destruction within its own ranks? To get at anything like a strategic account of this process, it’s helpful to revisit the pet historical thesis of Steve Bannon, perhaps the most pivotal intellectual figure in laying out the ideology of Trumpism—and, as we shall see, a lead party propagandist in the run-up to the January 6 insurrection. Exploiting the moral abjection of the GOP leadership, Bannon has primed his far-flung audience of white nationalists and government-bashing militants for revolt, and is pleased to descry in the resulting mayhem the Fourth Turning of the Republican Party—which he is apparently hoping will spark in turn the Fourth Turning of the United States of America, if not the world.

Allow me to explain. The Fourth Turning is the historical “season” in which we presently find ourselves, according to Neil Howe and the late William Strauss, authors of the enthusiastically Bannon-endorsed 1997 book of the same name. Fourth Turnings, we’re told, are not very nice, but they are necessary in order to clear the ground for the coming High season of transformation (a cyclical First Turning) that will precede a fuller moment of social Awakening (a Second Turning).

The authors have constructed a circle-in-a-spiral kind of pop-sociological system of history. Like many futurist tracts, it’s adopted an exceedingly long and vague time horizon for the kinds of change it prophesies, conveniently engineered to make it appear as though the crisis point of the last 80 to 100 years is poised to happen right about now. If there’s a time to rend and a time to sow, now, they tell us, is the time for rending.

Bannon has never built much of anything. He is far better at tearing things down, busting stuff up—so much so that he’s devoted his late career to the proposition.  Other than his famous “platform for the alt-right” at Breitbart News, Bannon has never built much of anything. His past tours as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and producer in the entertainment industry were classic nonproductive adventures in the kind of rent-seeking capitalism that he nowadays professes to deplore. Bannon is far better at tearing things down, busting stuff up—so much so, in fact, that he’s devoted his late career to the proposition. It’s not hard to see why The Fourth Turning’s apocalyptic, quasi-mystical vision would appeal to the likes of Bannon; it offers the perfect rationalization for sociopathic behavior. He’s not breaking stuff for the thrill of it—he’s executing history’s larger plan for all of us, playing his part. And so it was that Bannon placed himself at the center of the organizing effort that culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol building on January 6. MORE

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WIRE FROM THE BUNKER: Meet The Rodins

March 8th, 2021

Rodins

 

Houlon2BY JONATHAN HOULON FOLK MUSIC EDITOR Here come the Rodins!  There is a grand and awkward tradition of non-Anglos (especially the French) trying to imitate American and British pop sounds and sometimes even singing in English.  But the Rodins, in one of the greatest examples of reverse marketing since Gordon Sumner essayed an entire album on the lute, try something truly unique here:  Americans singing French pop in French!  As if that were not willfully obscure enough, on “Voyageur”, from the Rodins’ just-released self-titled EP, they recount the plight of the 19th Century French Canadian fur trapping trade.  No one can accuse these chats of playing to the charts. Rodin mastermind, Christophe(r) Malcarney (known in more sugary quarters as “The Colonel Montgomery Pie”), has wisely enlisted the crème de la crème of Philly musicians to assist on this project.  Legendary Big Messer Andy Bresnan blows tuba on “Voyageur” and Malcarney elsewhere calls upon Dorothy Haug (Nixon’s Head) and Camille Escobedo (Beretta 76) whose dulcet tones temper his own gruffer exhortations.  In addition to leading the late lamented Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra, Malcarney was also responsible for a couple of Tom Waits tribute concerts called “Cabinet of Curiosities.”  Waits’ influence is felt deeply on “Voyageur” and, in general, in the off-beat charm of this project. I am especially smitten with their Ramones cover, “Je Veux Être Ton Petit Ami”, natch. You can check out their new EP HERE. Kool trash!

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CINEMA: Is That All There Is To A Fire?

March 5th, 2021

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BILLIE EILISH: The World Is A Little Blurry (dir. R.J Cutler, 140 min., USA, 2021)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Early on in Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Bit Blurry, the Apple+ documentary that charts the meteoric rise of the young green-tressed pop phenom, there’s a moment at a sold out concert where Eilish parts the crowd of screaming preteens like Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments so security can carry out an injured girl. Obviously shaken by the ordeal, Eilish asks the crowd if they’re okay, she then emphatically states “they need to be fucking okay, because they are the reason she’s okay.” It’s raw, unscripted and heartfelt, and the doc spends its entire runtime chasing the purity of that one moment to no avail.

The film begins, as these films always do, with the obligatory collage of home movie footage documenting Billie’s many musical endeavors from toddler to teen, and her transition from dancing to singing. This is after she tragically ruptured her hip growth plate at the age of 13. Not missing a beat before hitting 14, Eilish pens “Ocean Eyes,” her first song with her brother Finneas to get some love on the radio. Fast forwarding three years, we see her recording When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, the debut that would make her a household name, and the rest as they say, is history.

The film effortlessly entwines Billie’s wholesome sitcom-eque home life with her ascension to pop stardom — one minute she’s trying to get her driver’s license, and the next she’s going on her first tour. Director R.J. Cutler keeps the narrative light while hitting the story beats of her career up until this point: recording Bad Guy with her brother in his bedroom, her embarrassing turn at Coachella where she forgot the lyrics to her own songs and finally her triumphant domination of the 2020 Grammys for the grand finale.

The best bits in documentaries like this are when the subject forgets they are being filmed and their mask slips for just long enough for the camera to get a glimpse beneath the veneer. That’s what made Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana so damn great and eye-opening for non-fans: unguarded moments where, for example, Swift laments her remaining shelf life as a popstar – like a real person. There’s not really a moment here where Eilish doesn’t come across as self-conscious, and her moments of quiet introspection often feel coached, rather than spontaneous. While there’s a brief mention of Billie’s struggles with self harm and another of her living with tourettes, it really feels like she’s not ready to explore her own demons yet. This point is underscored by Finneas who laments offhandedly about how “woke” Billie is about her cultivated personae and how it’s viewed online.

Because of that, The World’s a Little Bit Blurry lacks any real gravity or friction and feels more like cinematic fanservice. About the only high drama in doc’s nearly two and a half hour run time is an argument between Billie and Finneas about his desire to make “commercial music that appeals to the masses” or  when Eilish decides to break it off with Q, her long time boyfriend.  While the brother/sister argument is dispatched in record time when mom to brokers a truce, Q spends the majority of the film standing up or flaking out on Billie at various events. That is until he deserts her when she needs him most — during her disastrous Coachella performance — and that is the end of Q.

Given the recent crop of schadenfreude celebrity docs, I really can’t hold it against the film that Eilish is so well-adjusted and it’s actually a refreshing change to feel good about the subject after the credits roll. But I can’t help but think this project was probably a bit premature, that we need to give Billie a bit more time to grow comfortable in her own skin and gain some perspective. I would have preferred a doc about the artistic angst she will no doubt face when making the followup to Where Do We Go, all the while looking back on her seemingly effortless rise. While curious onlookers and casual fans will no doubt enjoy TWALBB, the super fans — those looking for the source of her midnight-dark narratives — might have to wait a bit longer for the Invisiline-rocking 16 year-old to let us in on the secret.

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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Your QPAC Scorecard

February 27th, 2021

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY This just in: Determined to keep the former would-be Fuhrer at the forefront of their lily-white-skinned nationalist agenda, CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) has announced that effective February 28, 2021, it will be changing its acronym/name to ATAC (Annual Trump Affirming SMUSConference).  In keeping with such action I think it only fitting and fair that some of Donnie’s phoniest, most two-faced, spineless, self-serving curtsiers and ring-kissers get a bit of well earned homage as well. I mean, it’s the least we can do. Here, in no particular order of their ignominy, are perhaps the most repellent of those tRumplicons still suckling from the teats of their former–but no less fetid–fat-ass Oval Office bowel-mouthed sow (sure, I probably should have used the “male” designation, but, in this particular instance, I felt to do so would have been an insult to every boar hog ever born):

Lindsey Graham:  The slipperiest, slimiest, self-servingest, bundle of swine still suckling. Hell, he’d throw Melania, Barron AND Donnie into the sty if he thought it would guarantee his re-election. Here’s what he said about tRump in 2016: “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it.” And who can forget the recent, “All I can say is count me out, enough is enough.” Reportedly he had to practically suck the sapphire out of said ring to curry forgiveness for that last gaffe. You’ve got to admit, however, that he exhibited considerable pinpointing and prognostication prowess with respect to the other two. According to reliable sources, the purpose of Lindsey’s most recent pilgrimage to Palm Beach was to try to persuade Donnie to select him as his number two on the 2024 ticket … or vice versa … if tRump is still a free man.

Ted Cruz: Here are a few of the good words he had to say about Donnie Dirtbag prior to their past four-year bromance: “He’s a sniveling coward and a pathological liar. If I were in my car and getting ready to reverse and saw Donald in the backup camera, I’m not sure which pedal I would push.” He’s said to have undergone multiple double knee and lip replacement surgeries in the four years since. You gotta hand it to him for his political dexterity though. When, in well below-freezing temperatures, the lights, water and heat went out on more than four million of his Texas constituents, he explained his having immediately hightailed it to Cancun as an “emergency search for hot sauce” to keep them warm. Oh, Ted, if only auditions for the SouthWest Airlines TV commercial were being held today, youda become an overnight comedic sensation instead of a Lone Star State steershit pitching legend. “Wanna get away?”

Jim Jordan & Ron Johnson: Dead heat for the title of “Sleaziest Steadfast Senatorial Scuzzball.” Jim has literally never met a Republicanism he couldn’t defend with evangelical fervor and right hand held out shoulder high in salute to his heavenly master–and I think we all know which demigod we’re demeaning here. Unfairly for Ron, mere hate-filled legislative longevity rather than sheer sordidness may leave many with the opinion that Jim holds the edge. To Johnson’s credit, though, he did bring to our attention the massive Trump-bannered Signs.com conspiracy exposing who the “actual” participants in the Capitol riot of January 6th were. Jim, on the other hand, recently argued that Al Gore’s questioning of Florida’s disqualification of Democrat voting cards with hanging chads in 2000 is somehow synonymous with Jordan and all of his fellow Republicans falsely asserting massive voter fraud in the 2020 election and deceitfully attempting to disenfranchise 80 million American voters. Sure it is, Dipshit. Take your pick.

Josh Hawley: Relative newcomer on the Republican kneeling/ring-kissing scene, but ascending rapidly in the “ability to fecalize facts” pecking order. Possesses literally all of the septic attributes of Jordan and Johnson.

Kevin McCarthy: Undisputed “Prince of Kneelers.” Aside from still being unable to stand erect, Kevin is also recovering from severe tongue and lip lacerations. But it looks like his pleadings for mercy were all for naught. He just didn’t take tRump’s psychopathy seriously enough. According to Peter Navarro (Donnie’s preferred enforcer), McCarthy “has to go.” I guess he should have known that you can’t let real Republican women of character, courage and conscience like Liz Cheney roam the halls of Congress on two good legs, and afterwards live to entreat the likes of Donnie tRump. And then there’s the matter of that speech following the impeachment vote. Sorry, Kev.

Marjorie Taylor Greene:  It’s difficult to put into words just how much of a tRumplicon chumpette this bigoted, QAnon-belching, bleached blonde bimbo actually is. If she couldn’t parrot the tRump and QAnon prevarications, she’d be speechless. She’s literally dumber–and a damn sight more malodorous–than Donnie dung.

Ron DeSantis: Oh, hell, just read this.

Rick Scott: This is the guy whose company–that’s right, it was HIS company–perpetrated the biggest Medicare fraud in American history! There’s simply nothing more you need to know about this tRump suckling puddle of puke!

Marco Rubio: What the hell, just read this, too.

So, there you have it, a rogues’ trough of truckling Republicans still suckling from the breasts of their sociopathic, self-aggrandizing, super sow.

Incidentally, Marjorie, could you please explain why men have nipples, and women retain the vestige of a penis. Thanks in advance. And, while I think of it, could you confirm for me that QAnon actually IS a pig farmer in the Philippines. It would go a long way towards helping me understand why you so willingly allow all that racist, bigoted, xenphobic pig shit to get shoved down your ginormously gullible gullet. Keep me posted. Thanks again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage octaagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

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CINEMA: Who’s Afraid Of Sam Levinson?

February 19th, 2021

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MALCOLM & MARIE (directed by Sam Levinson, 106 minutes, USA, 2021)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Malcolm & Marie is Sam Levinson’s follow-up to 2018’s Assassination Nation, which was a film that I think was a bit too smart for its marketed target demographic. I say that because copies of film that perfectly weaponized the metaphor of the social media witch hunt are always plentiful at my local used movie store. Assassination Nation was a film that stuck in my craw long after the press screening, and the more I thought about it, the more I found to appreciate in its densely nuanced tale of a group of girls at the center of a small town plagued by cell phone leaks, where thanks to the contents of these leaks we discover no one is as just as they pretend to be. With that in mind I sat down to watch the directors’ latest that just hit Netflix – Malcolm & Marie. 

Malcolm & Marie takes place the night after the world premier of a film the titular’s Malcom (John David Washington) wrote and directed about a woman struggling with addiction, based on the life of his live-in girlfriend, the titular Marie (Zendaya). The film shot during COVID lockdown is a claustrophobic glimpse into an abusive relationship taking place in the wee hours of the night after the premier as Malcom – your stereotypical asshole filmmaker with a god complex, riding high on his big night, emotionally eviscerates his significant other in their beautiful home to a swinging jazz score. Where the film gets into even more troubling territory is the fact that much is made of Malcolm being a black filmmaker in Hollywood, surrounded by, according to him, sycophantic white critics all looking to leverage politically correctness for social justice clout. Given the film was both written and directed by a white man, to call some of these racially charged conversations/statements/jokes problematic is way too kind.

The film is both excruciating and exhausting to sit through. Malcolm & Marie makes Marriage Story feel like a Brady Bunch episode, as the couple spends the entire one hour and forty two minute run time at each other’s throats, over and over again attempting to up the ante each go round. It’s terrible as it is, but it’s how the film traffics in racial stereotypes and tropes as a white filmmaker attempts to dissect racism in Hollywood that throws this cringe-worthy masterpiece into Green Book level cinematic black face. I mean at one point Malcolm jokes his take on a Lego movie would be called “Forty Bricks and a Mule”. This all happens while Malcolm and Zendaya — who is wearing little more than underwear for most of the film — attempt some hyper-meta dialog heavy cinematic deconstruction of race, politics and  the male gaze in order to give the filmmaker a sort of plausible deniability to any or all off these call-outs by future reviewers. It’s almost as if by giving the film a solid two thumbs down review — which I do very enthusiastically — I’m somehow fulfilling prophecy. So be it. This sucks.

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GO FUND THIS: Restoring The Shriner Mobile

February 18th, 2021

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GO FUND ME:
I recently purchased the most magnificent 1948 Buick flower car that the Reading PA Shriners originally customized into a Shriner parade car. This is after years of me trying to track it down. For reasons known only to them, they grafted a Packard hood with a vertical grill to the body, above the now better remembered toothy Buick Roadmaster horizontal grill. Benches to carry a whole flock of shriners were added where the flowers once were. The really nice family that owned it vetted me and decided I was the right home for it. I’m honored!

It is my plan to restore this unique vehicle 100%, and then make it available for any large Shriner parades from New York through Philadelphia to Washington DC. Have it tow a trailer full of Shriner band members, or fill it again with flowers and have it carry Miss Shriner Wowoo, 2022, waving and hurling root beer barrels.

This way it will not just be a restored car of some interest. It will serve to help raise awareness of the Shriners, and to their great works with their hospitals, work that I am in awe of. In between such service, it will rest dry and comfortable here in our 1890 carriage house in the Overbrook Farms section of Philadelphia. When not at either, it will be shown at car shows like the great Hershey auto show, and Shriners will be welcome to be on hand to explain about their charitable works.

We mean to raise the funds to do this right, and film the restoration and the eventual return to parades. Having never done this type of fundraising before, but being fully aware of the real rather than the overly optimistic costs of a total restoration, I will be pushing part one of our GoFundMe out to Shriners, classic Buick owners groups, myriad antique car groups including the AACA, which we have long been associated with, AND THE DELIGHTFULLY NUTTY AMERICAN PUBLIC IN GENERAL WHO WANT TO BE A PART OF MAKING SOMETHING FUN HAPPEN, AND HAPPEN NOW!.

I mean to ask everyone to take a THREE DOLLAR CHANCE on this project, giving the fundraiser a subtitle ‘THREE DOLLAR BILL!’. If that seems an insanely small ask, consider if just a modest percentile of our target audience grasp the fun and worthiness of this adventure, that right there is enough to do the restoration completely and then some. Those tiny but steady increments means that for once, a small family of modest means can do a real resto, frame off. This Magic Carpet should take its place in the ranks of the great cars in our popular culture, from the Munstermobile to the Popemobile. From the Monkeemobile to the Grave Digger. From the original Batmobile to the golf cart shaped like Bob Hope’s head. Be a part of it!

Note that while this amazing car will be of service to the Shriners and by association, with their amazing Shriners Hospitals for Children, this is not a Shriner’s’ sanctioned project. It has been decades since this car was owned by or associated with the Shriners, and therefore all the more wild that the owners before me chose to leave it original. MORE

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CINEMA: The Best Of Sundance 2021

February 18th, 2021

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Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC This year I had the honor of attending Sundance as a member of the working  press — well, virtually that is. We are still currently in the middle of a pandemic. Sundance, the Park City, Utah-based film festival started by Robert Redford 36 years ago, is well known to film buffs for premiering the can’t-miss films of the year. This year Sundance ran from January 28th to February 3rd and screened 72 features and more than 50 shorts.

I’ve attended more than a dozen virtual film fests in some capacity over the last year and Sundance exceeded any and all expectations for how a fest can and should run in this new ‘virtual’ world. As press we were given a seminar on how to most effectively use their custom platform, and to mimic an IRL fest films were still screening against one another in real time slots so you still had to pick your battles wisely. About 15 minutes before films, there was a virtual waiting room, with a chat function, to mimic that getting settled in your seat and checking in with those around you to gauge word of mouth on what is the can’t-miss at the fest vibe.

All screenings featured intros with directors and a post screening Q&A with cast and crew that was interactive as well. You could tell this was real time, because you still had the groan worthy questions getting through, like making a filmmaker explain in excruciating detail the ending of a film that was obviously meant to be ambiguous. I saw roughly five films a day with 28 films total at the fest and these were some of my favorites in no particular order, you will probably be hearing about in the months to come.

CODA Directed by Sian Heder

Opening Sundance this year was Sian Heder’s follow-up to Tallulah (2016), Coda, a re-imagining of the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier. Coda, which stands for Child of Deaf Adults stars Emilia Jones as Ruby Rossi, the only hearing member in a family of deaf fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts. When Ruby discovers a love of singing her senior year of high school, it leads to the crux of the drama: her teacher believes she has the talent to get a scholarship at Berklee. This happens just as her family decides to break out on their own and start a co-op, which Ruby is an integral part of, since she is the only one who can bridge the gap between her deaf family and the outside fishing community.’

SABAYA directed by Hogir Hirori

About five years ago ISIS attacked the Yazidi people and while thousands were killed, hundreds of Yazidi women were kidnapped and sold as sex slaves or ‘Sabaya’ on the black market. This film is a harrowing documentary about a group of men that have made it their life’s work to rescue and rehabilitate these women, opening up their hearts and their homes to them while risking their lives in the process. Most of the film is just these men — no more than five at any given time — assisted by a group of newly freed Sabaya known as ‘infiltrators’ who go into these camps looking for women being hidden from the authorities and free them. While this doc is filled with hope as woman after woman is rescued, there’s also a grim reality on display, like when they discover and free a seven year old Sabaya.

PLEASURE directed by Ninja Thyberg

Director Ninja Thyberg’s Pleasure  is the Swedish director’s second feature and is based on her previous award-winning short of the same name. While women directors taking on the adult film industry in cinema isn’t something new, it’s the Swedish director’s empowering take on the American porn industry in particular, with that fresh outsider perspective that gives the film its power. Pleasure is the story of Bella Cherry (Sofia Kappel) who comes to LA from Sweden bright eyed and determined to be the next big porn star. Unlike some protagonists in these sorts of films, Bella is intelligent, cognizant, confident and capable of what she is going to do, and just how she is going to do it.

COMING HOME IN THE DARK directed by James Ashcroft

Coming Home in the Dark is New Zealand director James Ashcroft’s stunning debut and quite possibly one of the best genre films you will see this year. The film is a relentless thriller that starts out simple enough: a family out for a hike in the gorgeous New Zealand wilderness are happened upon by two nefarious drifters. What starts out as a simple robbery turns into something much more, when one of the drifters recognizes the Dutch patriarch of the family and takes him and his Māori wife hostage. From there we as the audience is fed bits and pieces of the backstory in an attempt to piece together “the why”, and it’s downright masterful how this plays out. Powerfully acted and flawlessly executed there’s not a second wasted in the tense 93 minutes runtime as Ashcroft guides us through this night of captivity.



THE SPARKS BROTHERS directed by Edgar Wright

Director Edgar Wright is probably best known for his love of music, and how it’s been such an integral part of his filmmaking process in whimsical fictional narratives like  Shaun of the Dead  and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. This time out he tries his had at the documentary genre with a very passionate look at one of his favorite musical acts you’ve probably never heard of, Sparks. Wright makes the case for what could possibly be one of the most influential bands in pop music is also one of the most overlooked as well.

Given Wright’s penchant for rapid fire montages and info dumps, it makes sense he would be a great documentarian, given that the point of the forms is to convey information in an entertaining and engaging manner. Wright does a remarkable job of tracking 25 albums and more than 500 songs the band has recorded to date, bringing in celebrity super fans to speak candidly about their career’s ebb and flow. The film doesn’t dig too deep into the personal lives of the brothers, choosing instead to focus on the music, where there is more than enough drama  to fill multiple documentaries.

VIOLATION directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer & Dusty Mancinelli

Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli’s debut feature Violation is an  empowering feminist take on the invariably exploitive Rape Revenge sub-genre. What puts this film head and shoulders above similarly themed outings is  Madeleine Sims-Fewer the unflinching and heart breaking portrayal of Miriam, the film’s victim-protagonist Miriam, in addition to her co-writing and co-directing duties. Violation flips the audience’s expectations to tell a much more nuanced story, venturing into that gray area that most directors fear to tread. Violation is a ferocious depiction of absolute cause and effect that is chilling in its exactness.

CENSOR directed by Prano Bailey-Bond

Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature length directorial debut Censor is a period piece taking place in the United Kingdom in the 1980s during the Video Nasties era. For those not privy to this bizarre slice of genre history, Video Nasties refers to that ignominious era when the British government was heavily censoring or outright banning horror and exploitation films for the sake of protecting their citizens who they believed would turn into mass murdering heathens if they ever saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in its full uncut bloods-gushing glory. Keep in mind, this was at the peak of the home video boom, so this is when video distros were plumbing the seedy depths of New York’s then-infamous 42nd street for any and all content to put on video store shelves, the more lurid the film or the subject matter, the better. Censor is the story of a female censor Enid (Niamh Algar) who begins to come apart at the seams when she thinks she glimpses a woman who she believes is her long-lost sister, who vanished when she was a child, in a fictional slasher film she’s, um, censoring. This sends her down a rabbit hole as she attempts to track down the reclusive director of said film and the mysterious woman she thinks is her sister, which turns her journey into a surreal descent into Hell.

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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Profiles In Cowardice

February 14th, 2021

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BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Listen up, all ye would-be retainers of your precious Republican (in name only) Senate and House seats, all you timid, trembling, yellow-bellied, come to truth latelies, who’d reluctantly proclaim you’re finally willing to put your country above pandering to Trump and his pestilent hoards of punks and chumps, and meekly beg the forgiveness of the REAL Republican party. Pay attention! I’m about to present you with a guaranteed, fool-proof, fail-safe means of doing the right thing, the patriotic thing, the SMUSdecent thing for a change; something that just may provide you a second chance at salvaging the courage that no one is sure you ever had; something that just might earn you the dignity and respect you’ve only dreamed of having; something that could offer you the possibility of regaining at least partial use of that spine you lost on Trump’s nomination day; something that perhaps might grant you at least some hope of garnering the self respect you’ve always seemed to show was never worth the bother; and, yes, even possibly getting the gift of some day soon finding the perfect Republican donor match to replace the guts you lost five years ago. So, pay close attention because I’m about to hand you what in all probability will be your last chance for redemption: a step by step means of how to defeat those cretin-ish Trump-cult challengers the Impeached in Chief will be primarying against you because he feels you’ve become insufficiently subservient to his still autocratic ambitions and thus are no longer fit to carry his big blood-soaked red necktie-shaped banner with the noose-encircled snow-white RBX (Racism, Bigotry, Xenophobia) acronym execrably tattooed in its center.

Step One: Secure a recent picture of your opponent’s face, preferably with a submissive look on his or her face. Photoshop said face into an oxen yoke with the words “Property of Donald J. Trump” burned into its beam. Add a big shiny brass ring through his or her nose. A visible inscription on the ring should read, “Donnie and (add your opponent’s first name) Forever” plus the current year. Don’t be concerned about your opponent’s sex. In fact, in this instance, if it’s a man it will work out better anyway.

Step Two: Make her lips appear to move in sync with the following message: “If elected, I promise to be the instrument of Donnie’s every political wish and whim. I promise to have no mind of my own whatsoever when it comes to politics–or anything else for that matter. His voice will be my voice. I will take no action whatsoever without The Donald’s express approval–which, of course, includes seeking and obeying his council with respect to any and all votes which I may be called upon to cast while in office. I have accepted Donald J. Trump as my Lord and Master. I shall have no other Gods before him.” After a short pause, you will no doubt be required to add, in your own voice, the following: “I am so and so (your name) and I approve of this message. Unlike my opponent, I will always independently represent the best interests of my constituents and my country.” Say it like you mean it!

Step Three: Get the ad up and running and keep it going on every state and/or local TV and radio station and major social media platform. Run it ’til your campaign contributions and matching public funds run out, whichever comes last.

Step Four: Start packing for the move to Washington. And, by the way, You’re Welcome!

Remember, from this point forward, you must always refer to Trump as Donnie. Never again allow him the dignity of being referred to as “the former President” or “former President Trump.” From now on it’s Donnie, period. If you feel that the situation absolutely demands a wee bit more formality, you may use “Donnie the Would-be Infante,” but that’s the only exception.

Oh, and this is extremely important: you’ll want to immediately get started formulating an ironclad, bullet proof, mea culpa response to the question(s) as to why you suckled from the teats of the fetid fat-ass former Oval Office sow for so long. Sorry, you’re on your own on that one.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage octaagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

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