I am not submitting a Best Shot entry, I wrote about Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde and I don’t even know if that post makes any sense, especially as a Best Shot post. So instead I’m posting a video that doesn’t have the same sexuality as the sonic experience of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s song about the ill-fated couple.
I imagined two people with the wind blowing on their faces as they traverse the Southern crossroads, not two glamorously dressed people pointing guns and posing away from the camera. Adrien Brody/Vincent Cassel and Lara Stone should do a photo shoot or a full remake of this video. We’ve come a long way from music video artistry/acting. It also delights to me watch Disgusting Racist Bardot’s looks slowly deteriorate. She held on to her looks long enough. Either way, it’s a relief to see that musicians didn’t have to be good looking back then.
I first heard of this song in Laurel Canyon but this song was apparently on Rush Hour 3 and I’m almost willing to forget Brett Ratner’s homophobia for this. Also, I’m drunk now.
Everyone who watches Stephen Colbert knows about “Biophilia” and how “Cosmogony” kind of sucks. At least, that I wasn’t in the mood for it. If anything “Cosmogony” didn’t make me cry as “Unison” did. And I don’t want to make my readers cry so here’s “Earth Intruders” instead, Michel Ocelot’s tribal imagery being kind of literal for Bjork. Writing about music videos are so easy compared to movies. Anyway, two thoughts about Bjork: First, what if she was in the music videos for the dance remixes to her songs like this or “Hyperballad?” The closes we’ll get to that is the dance-y “Violently Happy.” Second: I have a copy of Dancing in the Dark or I had until I lost it. Vanity Fair already ruined the ending for me and I missed my chance to see it at TIFF but one day. It might even be my deathbed movie, replacing The Piano. Third: Bjork’s evolving better than Radiohead, still.
My music taste isn’t just made up of crappy diva pop music, it’s also made up of hip hop. I have no idea what’s going on with music, much less rap. I’ve liked The Cool Kids since I was in college, a hip hop duo who somehow makes sense with the white hipsters who’ve appropriated them as their own. And I really thought that old school was a Toronto thing as opposed to something that the Midwest also did. What is Toronto doing now? How do I verbalize or describe the sound of what Drake is doing? Anyway, I wanted to catch up on what they’re doing recently, which is apparently lending their music to “Entourage.” I actually wanted to post some of their new stuff, but that’s not as good. “Pennies” isn’t their best song neither. I don’t even like the two-note hook in the chorus, I prefer my beats low, which their other, greater sons like “Popcorn,” “Bassment Party,” or “Hammer Bros,” have. But I found myself rapping whatever words I knew from that song. Yes, rapping. Enjoy.
Like any sane person infected with collective panicrity, I searched for Whitney Houston on Youtube. There’s a sobering quality to her mourning, actually. Some of us celebrated Michael Jackson’s with a morbid dance party, Amy Winehouse’s made us energetically growl.
I’m not saying there’s no energy in Houston’s songs – at her peak, her windpipe can power a small, hippie European country. Besides, during the night when the news spread of her death, the gay clubs reportedly only played “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and moved on because what other choice did they have? And she’s one of the cases where drug use or mental duress doesn’t cause productivity so her creative output and her troubles were separate. And in her early years she had the most amazing power ballads, making us react in different ways. We could be annoyed at their ubiquity and dated-ness, we could sing them off-key with a bit of humour. Her lyrics might have told us something about the loss of love but they equally celebrated it. And although I’m proud that I’m known as a sap within my new circle of friends, I could never cry to her songs because they weren’t downbeat enough. That’s also partly because “I Will Always Love You” came out when I was five which was too young for me to realize ‘influential’ and stuff like that.
One the latter sections of Houston’s page contained a link to another about ‘melisma.’ What is that, some sort of disease that afflicted her as a child/this year? No. According to Wikipedia, it’s ‘the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession.’ Anyway, melisma – click, Mariah Carey’s Vision of Love and it’s apparently unfortunate influence on the vocal stylings of the American Idol generation – click, random girls covering the song and sounding so good it has to be auto tune, click – the official music video, click. Which made me think that was a Rene Magritte music video. The tan walls, the candelabra, the tree in the background that might as well be floating on air. Maybe it’s the spare quality of the visuals that make them seem like they don’t add up. That video is exactly why I need to sleep now.
Yes, I’m still reeling from the Madonnabowl. Sorry for my lateness, I don’t watch music videos unless there are necessary exceptions. She hasn’t changed her sound in a decade, and I probably will forget this song after hearing it. But it takes me back to my cheerleading days. That’s something me and Madonna have in common, other than a Canadian heritage and promiscuity.
Today’s a lazy day. The backlog is there as well but the inspiration has been slow for me. So here’s a daily dose of ballet. And yes, this also proves how behind I am in current pop culture and music. ETA: Full length version courtesy of Andrew Parker.
- Kanye West – Runaway – Black Swan Video (blogrestandplay.com)
I didn’t get to see a lot of movies from Hot Docs this year because of scheduling conflicts and other cluster fucks. This is not a personal blog so I’ll just go right ahead and talk about the whopping two movies that I did see as a plebe.
There are many similarities between Who Took the Bomp – Le Tigre on Tour and The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. They’re both a part of the late night screenings this year, both about experimental musicians who do need to be properly introduced to the viewing public who may not know about the genres and the musicians, both refuse to be elegies by showing their own brand of quasi-hipster happiness.
The first scenes of Bomp are shaky, not knowing the balance between performed amateurism and the band taking themselves seriously enough, but these aspects of Le Tigre’s mission statement eventually merge. It’s like a Hello Kitty doll giving the finger, the film punctuated by the band performing its danceable tunes about feminism, LGBT visibility, etc. It seamlessly weaves through its characters equally showcasing each band member so it’s not just about lead vocalist/guitarist Kathleen Hanna, who has her long provenance. It’s also about the fans, like one who is memorably touched by Hanna’s kind words. 4/5. I should have given it a 3.
Ballad, however, is a film version of a shrine, showing home videos of a dominatrix/artist/musician Lady Jaye accompanied by voice-overs of her pandrogynous husband, industrial musician/artist Genesis P-Orridge. The dreamlike Lady Jaye can’t speak for herself, in her part within their strangest of couplings – they decided to undergo plastic surgery to look more like each other. But her image and Genesis’ voice is enough to make us feel the happiness of a person who finds his true love while on an impressionistic journey in finding his true self. 4/5.
The Mirvish company hosted An Evening With Stephen Sondheim at the Princess of Wales Theatre. He was introduced by Des McAnuff, who among many things, said something really nice about “Sweeney Todd.” Something along the lines of how effectively emotive or haunting the Johanna song is. I can’t remember for sure.
Sondheim’s not an island. McAnuff in his introduction talked about the composer’s trusty collaborations with his longtime collaborator/choreographer/director Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and many more later in his career. Sondheim’s let us in that Robbins scared him but the final results of working with him were worth it.
He’s very open about his flaws even within his well-loved works. He talked about how the words of “Forum” don’t match well with the music, and accuses himself of creating high music for a low comedy. As he said, it takes as much work to write a good song but a wrong song as it it to write the right one. He also talked about the enormous help that his mentor/surrogate father Oscar Hammerstein II has given him. Hammerstein helped especially on the first musical he penned when he was 15, which is, as he remembers Hammersten saying, is the worst thing the mentor has ever read.
He also talked about the mentor as an experimental composer in capturing the vernacular in the songs. He said that Hammerstein was better in mirroring the colloquialism in period pieces than with the contemporary-set musicals. That said from the man who brought us the lyrics of “West Side Story,” and I know. I’m actually one of the few people who think that the Jets and the Sharks are tough. Because this is often my angle in the movies I see, and that it’s a topic I can’t really bring up in person, but accents aside, there’s little difference between how the two groups talk. Which is good and that the differences between they aren’t overplayed. Besides, they’re all in Hell’s Kitchen, right? This led to critic Robert Cushman talking about theatre evolving to mimic real-life conversation. Sondheim corrected him about the limitations of theatre mirroring naturalism, that the audience makes a pact as they go into the theatre to believe mostly what the stage delivers. That no one really breaks out into song. Well, not really. The passive aggressiveness was fun to watch.
I was such an embarrassing n00b. The only knowledge I have of him are about two film adaptations of his work. He’s alive? That’s what he looks like? He’s in his 80‘s? And when “Into the Woods” was mentioned, a musical that I’ve never heard, clap away. My friend must have been embarrassed, me being such a poseur like that.
I wasn’t looking at my watch the entire time, but the last ten or twenty minutes of the conversation involved question cards either from probably mailed or e-mailed in. Sondheim was asked about the popularity of the song ‘Send in the Clowns,’ probably one of the last songs from a musical to enter the Billboard charts. It took two years and at least four singers who switched hands in singing the song as their own. Apparently those singers had different interpretations. Frank Sinatra’s (Belated Happy Birthday, by the way!) was ‘You go with a chick. It doesn’t work out. Send in the clowns.’
I can’t remember the question, but the differences between the stage and film of “West Side Story” – He wrote that? That just made him more approachable, not that listening to him talk wasn’t approachable enough, which it is – was discussed. The Broadway recordings always have the song ‘America’ only sung by female cast members while I had to refresh my memory and that the film version makes it a boys vs. girls song. Sondheim clarified that Robbins insisted that the stage version have the song only be sung and danced by girls. He also joked, hopefully, that Robbins had death rights to the choreography that will make future stage productions of “West Side Story” be unchanged. And you know what, Robbins is right.
Another one of the last few questions was about “Sweeney Todd,” the more Sondheimian musical in my understanding of the man because of the elegant words and intricate structures of the songs. Although Burton’s version is better on video, by the way. I might see it in the theatres again. The question was about a translation on “Sweeney Todd” in Korean, and how he felt about foreign translations. He said that he only knew rudimentary French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish. Four out of those five. He said he was grateful that other countries perform his work. The people performing his work send a rough translation of the translation, and if it’s in the spirit of the original, it’s ok. Can you imagine how ‘a politician cake would run’ in Korean, though, or what Asian Angela Lansbury might look like?
Oh, and if I had a flask, I would have taken a swing every time either McAnuff, Cushmann and even Sondheim said ‘Shakespeare.’ In the end, the night taught me a lot about the intelligent man, insightful about the specifics and science of his craft, how characters work with their songs and within the body of a musical.
There are large expository gaps within the musical numbers in Milos Forman’s adaptation of Hair, as first pointed out by a Variety staff writer. I haven’t seen the musical on stage so I haven’t seen it done better. The songs in the film seem like a part of the conversation but director uses the songs to create one set piece after another. What he did to ‘Aquarius’ was awesome but it’s a song that no one can mess that up.
But with my second viewing, I discovered songs that I didn’t pay attention. In ‘Walking in Space,’ the song doesn’t perfectly match with the visuals, but I like the effort within the metaphor. The actress sings the song well. I don’t think it’s the best cast musical (the movie settled with actors who can kinda sing and kinda act, sometimes singing the most passionate songs with the deadest eyes I’ve seen in people), but there’s a little magic in the film when the vocals can sometimes hint on the pathos and beauty of the song they’re singing. It happens in this number.
Also, ‘Claude’s (John Savage) going to the Army’ is established in the beginning of the film instead of making it a shocking twist in the end. At least the movie has a story now instead of it being two hours of hippies – is that a pejorative? – dancing in Central Park. But with a little narrative, the audience lost the sincerity of the activist movement in the late 1960’s. Sheila (Beverly D’Angelo) stumbles into the hippies instead of being already a part of them. The film portrays guys like Berger (Treat Williams) as beggars, hustlers and apathetic deadbeats. Sure, there were probably a lot of beggars, hustlers and apathetic deadbeats within the movement, but they could have at least had a cast member who knows about the issues. Despite my limited knowledge, Hair is the most eloquent, articulate, incendiary, explosive musical I’ve listened to and this movie didn’t fully tap into those great qualities.
I hate watching movies that I used to like in high school, because the spark of rebellion I saw in those movies fade away.
Word vomit on the film’s context – there were a lot of movies in the ’70’s that tackled the ’60’s as the subject, like a nation took ten years to finally talk about the collective destruction and trauma. Most of those films were Vietnam War films, articulating the multiple deaths in a generation of men. But some focused on the counterculture and its battles fought at home, like Serpico, a film that portrayed a man’s limitless access to information and culture. Or Shampoo and Carnal Knowledge, about the feelings hurt during free love.
(p.s. I also forgot about Norman Jewison’s Jesus Christ Superstar, although it’s ambiguous as to which decade or time in history that the film is representing.)