I’m on some sort of David Bowie kick today because I’m lovin’ these David Bowie handmade nesting dolls by Tanja Stark. From her website, Suburban Gothic:
I painted these over several months, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the images, these are the covers of iconic Bowie albums including Aladdin Sane, Low (my favourite doll - the orange one), Young Americans, Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Ms. Stark’s dolls are for sale.
You may not know his name, but chances are you’re already a huge fan of Pablo Ferro’s work. Proclaimed a genius by the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Hal Ashby and Jonathan Demme, Pablo’s career as a movie title sequence designer has brought him mega-accolades within the world of film production, and his large and varied body of work brought titles into the modern era with a style and approach that still ripples through contemporary cinema. From the moving collage of The Thomas Crown Affair to his trademark hand-drawn lettering for Dr. Strangelove, Pablo Ferro is a world-class designer of the highest order. Plus, Pablo also created some of cinema’s most memorable trailers of all time, such as the mindbending promos for A Clockwork Orange and Zardoz! We are delighted to host an entire evening devoted to Pablo’s legacy and historic portfolio — with the man, the myth, the master himself in attendance. Join us for a evening of impossibly cool titles, trailers, rare animations and unscreened shorts, all spliced together by an extended Q&A with Pablo!
Dangerous Minds, reporting from Fantastic Fest in Austin…and loving it.
Released last year in Mexico during the country’s bicentennial celebration, El Narco (aka El Infierno) is the cinematic equivalent of a turd in the punchbowl. Director Luis Estrada’s intimate and epic gangster film is a brutal, darkly funny and deeply cynical exploration of the illegal drug industry that is reducing a great country into a decimated war zone. Estrada clearly feels that in 2010 there was little to celebrate in Mexico. And it’s getting worse. This was not exactly the film Mexican authorities wanted as part of its glorious national celebration.
In a resounding “fuck you” to the those who tried to thwart the film’s release, El Narco became a critical and commercial success in Mexico and it is easy to see why. Like the Godfather or De Palma’s Scarface, El Narco tells a story that is filled with melodrama, violence and tragedy and it does so with operatic grandeur and a brash attitude. What separates Estrada’s film from Coppola’s and De Palma’s is in its sense of place, a landscape that can be as unforgiving as it is beautiful, a place where men are dwarfed by forces they cannot control, where stretches of highway seem to go on forever and a dead pickup truck is the only sign of civilization.
With its characters struggling against harsh realities meted out by a ruthless God, man and fate, El Narco occasionally looks and feels like a Sam Peckinpah film. As I watched the movie, I could imagine seeing Warren Oates from Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia walking into the frame holding his blood-encrusted, fly-specked bag. Estrada shares Peckinpah’s knack for peeling back the facade of a kind of ludicrous machismo that conceals the fear within the gangster mentality. Underneath the bling bling, big guns and bigger talk lurks men who tremble at an unexpected knock at the door, who deceive and are betrayed, who kill to keep from being killed… and the killers can be anyone at anytime. If the drug wars end it may not be because of any political or legal agenda, it may be the result of a bigass, collective, self-inflicted gunshot wound. Wait long enough and these fuckers may end up wiping themselves out. Except, as Estrada sees it, there is a younger generation just waiting to fill those dead men’s boots.
Throughout El Narco a Greek chorus of narcocorrido songs, drug ballads, comment upon and serve as ironic counterpoints to the action. Narcocorridos depict the drug lords as folk heroes, bigger-than-life figures that instill a kind of perverted national pride in Mexico’s youth. The songs serve the same cathartic function as old school gangster rap did for Black kids in the States two decades ago. For many young Mexican men, the choices are slim to none -deal drugs or make a run for the border. Either way, you end up enslaved. The ballads tell the tale but tend to glorify the gangster life in an all too familiar way, the difference lays in tradition, accordions instead of beat boxes.
The drug dealers in El Narco exude the seductive aura of money and power, implacable as Aztec gods, but in actuality they’re just expendable foot soldiers, as easily blown away as a line of cocaine in a sudden gust of wind. Estrada is very good at showing us the sweat beneath the swagger, laying bare just how pathetic and vulnerable these men are.
Although superior to most gangster movies, El Narco breaks no new ground. Its dramatic arc is tried and true, its narrative conventional. There is romance, intrigue, betrayal and cruel justice. It has fine performances, is beautifully photographed and emotionally engaging. It adheres to the rules of the genre. It had to. In order to get his message across, that Mexico is becoming a country run by drug dealing terrorists, Estrada had to smuggle it within a classic form of storytelling much like the folk songs spun by the singers of narcocorridos. El Narco is a song sung with the voice of a man who has seen the darkness on the horizon growing ever closer and who must keep singing.
El Narco has an American distributor and, after some foot dragging, is scheduled to hit theaters soon. Its an important film and a viable commercial prospect. Let’s get it out there.
Luis Estrada discussing El Narco after its screening at Fantastic Fest 2011.
Robert Conroy has the voice of an angel - an angel who’s lived a season in hell.
Conroy is one half of the exquisite pop duo, Misty Roses, whose beautiful and ethereal voice is married to the dramatic and mesmeric music of Jonny Perl. From when they first met, they understood each other. Call it synchronicity. Call it good taste.
Together they are Misty Roses - the most startlingly original and brilliant group of the past 5 years.
In an exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds, Misty Roses, Conroy and Perl, explain the who’s, what’s, why’s and wherefores of their music.
Robert: ‘I met Jonny in late 2002, when he was still living in Brooklyn. We had a mutual friend and, in passing, I mentioned to that mutual friend that I was obsessed with Scott Walker and Julie London. To which he said “There is only ONE other person ON EARTH who is obsessed with Scott Walker AND Julie London! That’s this English guy I know, Jonny Perl!” And I found out he was a musician, and I was intrigued - so I got Jonny’s number and I called him. We met soon afterwards, and we just realized very quickly that we were on very similar frequencies. I mean, after our first rehearsal - which was three hours long, maybe - I think we came away with working demos of three or four songs that ended up on our first LP. We understood each other - musically - from the get-go.’
Born and raised in NYC, Robert had performed with a range of bands “post-punk, goth, electronic” over the years, and says he “was lucky enough to have a front row seat for a lot what happened musically over last decade or two.” The range of experience only confirmed his talents and focused his ambitions.
Robert: First and foremost, I am a singer - I’ve trained with some serious vocal coaches, in my day. And I like a lot of different kinds of music. So if I dig the people and I dig how they write songs and they dig how I write songs, then I’m game.’
British born Jonny has always been musically gifted, as a child he learned to play the cello, piano, and saxophone. Before Misty Roses he had played in a variety of combos, and was playing with a surf band in NYC when the conversation about Julie London brought him to Robert.
Jonny: ‘The synergies between our musical interests seemed so strong that we both figured it was worth giving it a shot.’
Together, they create music that is the perfect fusion of cabaret and cinema, of torch song and widescreen. You are listening to the score for a dream by Kenneth Anger or Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Douglas Sirk or David Lynch.
Robert: ‘We have been described as Lynchian - which we take as a great compliment. (And we did cover a David Lynch/Angelo Badalamenti song on our disc Komodo Dragons - so it sort of fits, don’t it?) But we both love the way Mr. Lynch takes something seemingly innocuous and pretty - such as a song like “Sixteen Reasons” or “Blue Velvet” - and discovers all these inherently disturbing elements beneath its surface. I hope we create a similar kind of frisson with our best songs.
‘Musically, we are deeply influenced by non-rock popular music from the later half of the Twentieth Century. Soundtrack composers like Ennio Morricone, John Barry and Jerry Goldsmith, exotica, bossa nova and tropicalia records, dub and a lot recordings of jazz and vocal standards - Ellington, Julie London, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone and such like.
‘Likewise, the work of people we like to call “middle-of-the-road mavericks”- artists who were able to create music that was both very accessible and deeply idiosyncratic and more than a little odd. People like Scott Walker, Serge Gainsbourg, Bacharach and David, Dionne Warwick, Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Jimmy Webb, Bobbie Gentry, etc. And these influences get filtered further through the “rock” music we like, which is primarily the “artier” end of the spectrum. Stuff like the Velvet Underground and its alumni, Bowie, Roxy Music, Sparks, Joy Division, The Banshees, The Associates, Soft Cell, The Smiths, The Pet Shop Boys, Suede, Broadcast, Goldfrapp, etc.
‘Jonny described our sound as “glamorous easy listening music” initially. I loved that. Jonny and I are really attracted to glamorous sounds. We love orchestrations - strings sections, and french horns and flutes. We dig those gleaming, cold textures of synthesizers from the 1970’s.
All the things that you’re supposed to reject if you’re into music that is “true” and “real”. We dig artifice.’
Jonny: ‘Yes - we had pretty much all these things in common as interests from the start. I will never shake off the Smiths/Postcard/C86 influences I had when I started to play guitar, but there has always been cross-fertilization - from playing in orchestras and ensembles to collecting old easy listening, Latin and Brazilian records.’
Robert: ‘And our music tends to drift into the shadows, as it were. Traditionally - until the last century, really - “glamour” was an occult term. Its a synonym for “spell”. One casts a glamour. And that connection to magic also suggests a sense of mystery - I think. Nothing can be truly glamorous without an element of darkness or strangeness. All my favorite music has some eerie, even creepy, aspect. And I find a lot of classic horror and science fictions films - like Forbidden Planet or Suspiria or The Bride of Frankenstein - wildly glamorous. Star Trek and Space: 1999 likewise.’
Their first performance as Misty Roses took place in an old East Village Buddhist tea house. Jonny played guitar and backing tracks, while Robert “channeled Dusty Springfield”. For both, it was a moment of magic, and the promise of greater things seemed almost within reach. Almost….
”Starry Wisdom” from ‘Villainess’ by Misty Roses
More from the fabulous Misty Roses, plus bonus tracks, after the jump…
I hated Kate Bush the first time I heard her voice warbling “Wuthering Heights” on the radio, early one cold, winter morn. It was exam time, and in my annoyance suddenly understood why old people hate the music of the happy-go-lucky young. You see, I was prematurely middle-aged. It didn’t last, of course. A week or so later, and I was, like every other schoolboy, smitten by this delicate, pre-Raphaelite beauty, with the powerful, ethereal voice and her wayward, drama school dancing. I became a fan and her records were added to the collection and played with the reverence of a love-sick Montague.
Alas, I never saw her one and only tour On Stage in 1979, by then I was writing poems for undeserving girls, who preferred boys in leather with B.O. and bikes and a liking for Gong. Therefore I’ll always be grateful Kate’s performance at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, was recorded for posterity on May 13 1979. O, what joy is that?
Find out for yourself, and check the track listing:
02. “Them Heavy People”
04. “Strange Phenomena”
05. “Hammer Horror”
06. “Don’t Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake”
08. “Feel It”
10. “James and the Cold Gun”
11. “Oh England My Lionheart”
12. “Wuthering Heights”
The lovely Dan Aykroyd runs through a selection of voices in search of a punchline, in his screen test for Saturday Night Live from 1975. It’s an impressive turn, showing his considerable talent, versatility, and a mustache that made him look older than his twenty-two years of age.
Was it a case of more money than sense that led Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, formerly of the KLF, to burn 1 million pounds sterling on the Isle of Jura in 1994? It’s a question neither man has fully answered.
After the event, both said they wouldn’t talk about it for twenty-three years. Since then, Drummond has spoken about it twice: once in 2000, when he said he was unrepentent; then in 2004, when he admitted to the BBC he regretted burning the cash.
The money allegedly came from royalties Drummond and Cauty made through the success of their band the KLF - the world’s most successful band in 1991. After retiring from music, Drummond and Cauty reunited the K Foundation, and established an award for the “worst artist of the year”, which they gave as a £40,000 prize to that year’s Turner Prize winner, Rachel Whiteread.
The following year, the pair carried out their biggest stunt - burning a million quid of their own money.
Was it real? Did they actually burn a million? Or, was the money bogus?
One theory suggests it was all a hoax and the notes burnt had been intended for incineration, being purchased from the Bank of England by the K Foundation for £40,000.
“The money is not beautiful, and it is only intimidating for a while. It is impossible, looking at it, to imagine what you might buy with it. Four bundles for a nice flat in Chelsea, the whole lot for a lifetime not working. It doesn’t look that impressive. The next thing you feel is the need to do something, not to let it just stand there. Because, of course, I, like anybody else with healthy appetites, want it.
“Lying on the floor in its proud plastic packages, the money represents power. But it is a power that is painfully vulnerable. Cauty separates two fifties from a bundle, hands one to Drummond, and taking his lighter, lights them both. Despite the rain and wind outside, the money is going to burn. In fact, nothing could burn better.
“Drummond is standing to the left of the fireplace throwing fresh bundles in, Cauty is to the right, screwing up three or four fifties at a time. After five minutes their actions become mechanical, almost like it is peat or coal that they are fuelling their fire with. But this is going to take some time. ‘Well that’s OK,’ says Cauty, rolling a cigarette. ‘It’d take a long time to spend it. Can I spend an hour out of my life to burn a million quid? (Drummond laughs)... All the time you say about things: ‘I haven’t got the time to do that.’ Well, I’ve definitely got time to do this.’
“The fireplace is a rough affair. Occasional fifties get wedged in crevices above the fire before they eventually fall down to be destroyed. Cauty is poking at the fire with a stick, moving the bigger bundles into the heat. Whole blocks of 50 grand remain resolutely unburnt: singed, charred, but perfectly legal. We have a bottle of whisky with us and it is passed round as if nothing could be more natural than burning £1 million on a remote Scottish island in the middle of the night. This is the truly shocking thing about the evening. It almost seems inevitable.
“It took about two hours for that cash to go up in flames. I looked at it closely, it was real. It came from a bona fide security firm and was not swapped at any time on our journey. More importantly, perhaps, after working with the K Foundation I know they are capable of this.”
A few days later, a total of £1500 in charred notes were washed up on the shores of Jura, much to the islanders’ disgust.
Did they actually burn £1m? And what did it mean? Julian Cope called the stunt “intellectual dry wank”, while the Observer in 2000 returned to it stating:
“It wasn’t a stunt. They really did it. If you want to rile Bill Drummond, you call him a hoaxer. ‘I knew it was real,’ a long-time friend and associate of his group The KLF tells me, ‘because afterwards, Jimmy and Bill looked so harrowed and haunted. And to be honest, they’ve never really been the same since.”
Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid questions our strange and fetishistic relationship with money - who has not considered how they would spend a million? - as it reaffirms a moral responsibility wealth (in any form) brings, by exploring a one-off event that now runs counter to the current global obsession with failing banks, bankrupt economies and corrupt financial markets.