I got an email earlier this week from one of the reichwing newsletters that I subscribe to and in it, there was a conspiracy theory involving Chinese hackers who could kill you through your pacemaker (hey, it happened this week on Homeland, didn’t it, smartypants?). Apparently, I didn’t read it that closely—it didn’t merit it—and just deleted it, they had some device that you could buy to protect yourself from the Chinese hackers by scrambling the serial codes for your pacemaker or… something. Clearly this organization were marketing geniuses and knew that a high percentage of their audience probably did have pacemakers installed and additionally probably suffered from senile dementia. (This isn’t the article I refer to, but you’ll get the gist of it here).
Last night on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert tackled the problem some older Fox News viewers might have separating the shit from the Shineola. Maybe it’s just a matter of “Low-T” or “Low-O,” he wondered?
Older people, Colbert began, are less able to trust their gut instincts, according to a report from Fox News. As they age, many people lose their ability to discern whether someone is lying to them or is trying scam them. They become more trusting.
“Who’d have thought that elderly Fox News viewers would be more susceptible to misinformation?” asked Colbert.
Glenn Beck, for sure. The companies selling them extortionately over-priced gold coins delivered to their front door. The publishers of NewsMax and WorldNetDaily, definitely. The NRA. The Tea Party Express. Sarah Palin. The Republican National Committee. It’s a pretty long list.
Firmeza , a new short film directed by Asia Argento for Ludovica Amati’s Spring/Summer collection of 2013, draws in viewers emotionally with a scenario involving an ayahuasca ceremony and then manages to slip in an entire fashion show without them realizing it. I loved it. Super clever idea to display clothing. Breathtaking visuals and cinematography.
I can’t say for sure that she actually took ayahuasca during the shooting, but knowing the Scarlet Diva, I wonder…
The sign in the 1970s, during a particularly shaggy time
I have always found the Hollywood sign to be charmingly anachronistic— a dated landmark, but delightfully so. Built in 1923 to promote a housing development (originally “Hollywoodland”), the sign has gone through various stages of disrepair and restoration over the years. It was even defaced as “Hollyweed” a few years after the decriminalization of marijuana in California.
Seeing this much work go into something that was never intended to be permanent seems to go against the impression I have of Los Angeles as a high turnover city, dismissive of its own history; it’s oddly comforting to see this kind of effort go into its preservation.
Hugh Cornwell’s last show with The Stranglers at Alexandra Palace, London on August 13, 1990. The band would continue without Cornwell but would never be the same. A fucking shame and a particularly big disappointment for this hardcore Stranglers fan. I’m still waiting for a re-union gig.
00:46 Toiler At The Sea
07:46 Something Better Change
11:24 96 Tears
14:30 Someone Like You
17:32 Sweet Smell Of Success
21:40 Always The Sun
26:11 Strange Little Girl
29:07 Hanging Around
33:40 Let’s Celebrate
38:36 Golden Brown
42:45 No More Heroes
46:38 Nuclear Device
53:35 All Day And All Of The Night
56:04 Punch And Judy
Outstanding audio and visual quality. Play it loud!
Abel Ferrara is, in a lot of ways, the quintessential New York filmmaker. For a director who is Brooklyn born, it was only natural for the city to be an omnipresent character in many of his works, including such classics as Ms. 45 and Bad Lieutenant. If the City is a strong background character in those films, then it is the star of Ferrara’s 1984 film, Fear City. Even better, we’re talking the seamier, pre-Disneyfied era of New York. Fear City features long gone spots like the Gaiety Burlesk as well as adult theatre marquees promoting such X-rated fare as Devil in Miss Jones II and Snow Honeys. The neon-lit sleaze and wonder of it all has never looked better on Blu Ray, thanks to the efforts of Shout Factory.
Locations aside, Fear City is a crime-riddled thriller centering around Matt Rossi (Tom Berenger), a former boxer who got out of the fighting game after accidentally killing his opponent in the ring. Staying in a profession still fringed with underworld connections, Matt, along with his partner Nicky (Jack Scalia), runs the Starlite Agency, which represents a number of exotic dancers. It’s not all glitter and pasties, since right off the bat we get to see Matt and Nicky hassle a club owner for back pay. When not dealing with business, Nicky tries to cheer up his partner, who is still heartsick after breaking up with his girlfriend and their star dancer, Loretta (Melanie Griffith). His angst is further fueled when he discovers that she is having a liaison with fellow dancer, Leila (Rae Dawn Chong.)
However, Matt soon has to put his emotional scars aside, since there’s a killer on the loose who is targeting strippers, a number of whom work for Matt and Nicky. Honey (Ola Ray) is the first victim, who survives but not without having a couple of her fingers cut off for her trouble. It’s only a matter of time before death looms ahead, with the first mortal victim being Leila. Between getting hassled by former vice cop now homicide detective Wheeler (Billy Dee Williams) and trying to rekindle things with Loretta, will Matt be able to reconcile the ghosts of his past and confront a highly dangerous killer?
Fear City is a film that neither wallows or shies away from the seamier side of life. Even better, it is non-judgmental. The women are not murdered because of any loaded sense of puritanical cultural guilt, but more due to the fact that there is a really sick, karate fueled sociopath with some severe repression issues out on the streets. Fear City is a good answer to anyone that makes the blanket assumption that all slasher-thriller type films are fueled by sheer misogyny. (Not bad for a movie ripe with T&A!) Of course, making a movie set in the often sleazy world of exotic dancing without nudity would be a bit like making a film about plumbing with no pipes.
Fear City has garnered a bit of a reputation as a ultra-lurid film and while the very nature of its story features some amount of sordidness, there were films out there that were were way stronger. The key difference, though, would be that a large amount of those more unabashed titles were typically independent from the get go, while Fear City was set up originally to be released by a major studio. In this case, the studio was 20th Century Fox. However, it apparently still proved to be too heady a film for the decades old giant and in the end, it was released by an independent distributor. Despite that, it still suffered some amazingly lame censorship.
Now thanks to this new release, we can finally see the film uncut, for the very first time on the American home video/digital market. Shout Factory have recreated the original cut, utilizing the theatrical print (which is also available on this disc) and an uncut VHS source tape. The most shocking thing about what was cut was the stupidity of any of it being cut in the first place. But then again, censorship rarely, if ever, makes any bloody sense. The raciest footage that was excised includes a kiss between Melanie Griffith and Rae Dawn Chong, which is no more explicit than anything you will see on cable TV. In fact probably less so. On top of that, with it missing, it renders Loretta’s reactions to her lover getting attacked a little less powerful and more over-dramatic. Some of the other footage that has been restored includes extra seconds of the killer exercising, a couple of frames of Loretta’s striptease and some surprising police brutality during Detective Wheeler’s interrogation of Matt. It’s beyond ridiculous that any of this was cut. It is highly doubtful that someone who chooses to see a film about a sociopath who is targeting 42nd St. strippers is going to be overly sensitive to such realities that include two women expressing affection or an officer of the law abusing his power. Audiences being treated like simple children is nothing new though it’s disturbing to think that the trend was still going strong only 30 years ago. Not like censorship has, either. To quote the Jenny Holzer t-shirt, abuse of power comes as no surprise.
Censor gripes aside, Fear City may not be one of Ferrara’s masterpieces but it’s good and features some tight performances, especially from the underrated and occasionally underutilized Tom Berenger. It’s great getting to see Billy Dee Williams, who does a fine job playing such a moralizing, brutal hard-ass. Griffith is fairly good and has never looked better, resembling a less arty version of Tubes chanteuse and Holy Mountain actress Re Styles. Granted, she might be one of the healthiest looking heroin addicts in cinema but as a whole, she’s good. Fear City also has a theme song, “New York Doll” by THE New York Doll, David Johansen and soundtrack composer Joe Delia. The latter’s work goes back to Ferrara’s beginnings, including his first film ever, the adult feature Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy.
At its core, Fear City is a taut thriller but historically, it has become more than that. The era where danger and sleaze bled out on the neon stained pavement on Times Square are long gone, leaving corporate tourism and a sense of loss in its wake. Not that a time period where one could get shanked while trying to watch Snow Honeys or even R-rated fare needs to be romanticized either. But that said, one could argue that the pall of gentrification is even uglier than vice. Ignoring the darker aspects of our humanity is not going to make it go away and if anything, creates a hothouse for dysfunction. The film’s killer is a result of that very attitude.
Abel Ferrara, along with screenwriter Nicholas St. John, have created a film that makes no judgments one way or the other about any of its characters. It is that attitude that perhaps made this film so initially scary to studio execs. Hollywood films ranging from Death Wish to Personal Best featured more violence or sexuality, but the refusal to paint its hero or heroine with a broad brush is more threatening than any breast or blood factor. It might not be one of Ferrara’s best by any means, but it works well and is worthwhile for anyone who appreciates having a film with flawed characters and a peek into a headier time.
I did not know this existed, but I’m glad it does, as it has made my day a whole lot brighter!
in 1997, former Public Image Limited drummer Robert Williams brought an action against John Lydon for breach of contract and assault and battery. The suit got played out on daytime TV, in front of the nation, and the one and only Judge Judy. What the hell were they thinking?!
Lydon comes out of this looking good, despite being accused of head-butting Williams at a Japanese restaurant and firing him for no good reason, three days before an American tour. Williams protests that he did not want to share a room with two other musicians while on the tour, and thus was let go.
SPOILERS: Williams loses, and faces a stern telling off from Judy, who advises him that the music industry is full of strange characters unlike any other business, and that perhaps he is in the wrong trade.
Yeah, Judy doesn’t like WIlliams much, you can tell. It looks as if she takes a shine to Lydon though, despite having to calm his boisterousness by telling him to keep quiet on many occasions.
Perhaps this was the moment Lydon’s ambition as a TV presenter was born. Who knows? But it certainly deserves its place in his canon of classic television appearances.
If ever there was a hidden masterpiece by a titanic musical artist of great multi-generational consequence that is virtually unknown to the general public, it’s Frank Sinatra’s heartbreaking 1970 concept album, Watertown. It’s one of the most gut-wrenching albums of all time, right up there with Lou Reed’s infamously depressing Berlin or Torment and Toreros by Marc Almond, another great soundtrack for slitting your wrists to. Watertown is every bit Sinatra’s Berlin, a bleak, bleak ravaged soul of an album that, in my interpretation at least (for there are several the narrative lends itself to), offers NO redemption at the end for the broken narrator.
Watertown‘s main composer was Bob Gaudio, who wrote hits like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” for his group The Four Seasons (Gaudio was an original “Jersey Boy.” When he was just 15 he wrote “Short Shorts” for the Royal Teens).
Gaudio’s first creative partner in Watertown was Jake Holmes, who wrote “Dazed and Confused” (read about that here), and later the US Army recruitment jingle “Be All That You Can Be” and the “Be a Pepper” song for Dr Pepper. Together they demo’d the songs and took it to Sinatra, who was looking for material that was more contemporary. He told them he wanted to do all of the songs, and in the same order.
Watertown‘s orchestral tracks were recorded in New York during July of 1969, a month before Sinatra added his vocals overdubs in Hollywood (the sole instance in his career when he recorded an album to prerecorded tracks). It was his deepest foray into “rock pop” territory.
Here’s a succinct description of Watertown via Wikipedia:
In a series of soliloquies, the nameless narrator tells his heartbreaking story of personal loss and unrealized redemption. His wife has left him and their two boys for the lure of the big city, and her absence hangs palpably in the air. While it is altogether understandable why someone would flee the stark and dreary landscape of Watertown, empathy rests with the eloquent everyman left behind. He is a desperate man, the personification of all that is pedestrian in a small town, a solitary figure who suffers unbearable torment and despair. But, in expressing timeless sentiments to a love that is hopelessly lost, he finds salvation in the written word and an extraordinary transformation takes place. In his grief, he achieves a deeper understanding of himself, and a transcendent awareness of what he has lost and why.
I’ll get back to that interpretation in a moment…
“Goodbye (She Quietly Says)” tees up the ball like a great novel would, when the narrator’s wife informs him that she is leaving him. The song is set in a coffee shop and the other customers do not notice what has taken place. No anger, just grief, quiet unbearable grief stoically absorbed amid the clatter of plates, coffee cups and the conversation of others.
The sparse, poetic power of the lyrics is as good as it gets. So much is implied here.
If that number didn’t turn on the waterworks, try Watertown‘s “Michael & Peter” on for size as Sinatra’s narrator transparently tries to manipulate his wife with a description in a letter, of how their sons have grown:
Michael is you, he has your face
he still has your eyes remember
Peter is me ‘cept when he smiles
And if you look at them both for a while
you can see they are you, they are me
This spring we had some heavy rain
by summer it was dry again
the roses that we planted last fall
climbed the wall
I think the house could use some paint
you know your mother’s such a saint
she takes the boys whenever she can
There’s a fantastic essay about Watertown at the Frankosonic blog that first turned me on to the album. I read this and was like “I have to hear this.. NOW.”
Upon first listen it’s the story of a man who has been deserted by his wife and left to bring up their two kids alone. Pretty much every song is addressed directly to the absent partner and the simplistic style of lyric reads like a series of letters. As the story develops, the Father receives news that she is coming back to them, but ultimately he’s left stranded at the Railway Station as it becomes apparent that she was never aboard the train and won’t ever return.
Admittedly I have listened to this album far too much and I started to think about the bits of the story that didn’t add up.
Firstly, she has not only abandoned him but also the two kids - I know this DOES happen but is not exactly common behavior among women. Secondly, he mentions that her Mother still comes by to help with the children and along with other friends they encourage him to move on and find a new love. Surely any mother would concentrate on getting her wayward daughter back on track and try to orchestrate a reconciliation? But he’s not ready to move on, he’s not over her and he can’t understand why nobody sees this. Lastly I just don’t get why she would say that she is coming back and then just not turn up, breaking his heart a second time. Then it dawned on me…
She’s not coming back because she’s dead.
This seems the most likely explanation to me, but Watertown is left open-ended. One thing seems incontrovertible about the ending and this is that she is never, ever returning to him. I don’t agree with the final line in the Wikipedia synopsis, not in the least. When “The Train” comes and goes without his wife on it, the image of Sinatra’s narrator standing in the rain on the platform, far from being a guy “finding a deeper understanding of himself, and a transcendent awareness of what he has lost and why” I see as an image of pure, unadulterated GRIEF and DESPAIR.
And maybe that grief has pushed him over the edge. Maybe all of the letters he wrote and never sent were written to a dead woman to begin with?
It’s interesting to note that this was the great Frank Sinatra seemingly coming in to lend his voice to what would appear to have been more Gaudio and Holmes’ project than his own (they wrote the material for him) but Sinatra’s vocal performance is so off-the-scale magnificent on Watertown, that it’s nearly impossible to imagine this material being sung by anyone else with the same unflinching depressing conviction that Sinatra does. I think it’s one of his greatest performances, ever.
It’s impossible to pick a “favorite” song from such a sad, sad song cycle, but “What’s Now Is Now” ranks with the very, very best of Sinatra’s material.
Watertown used to be nearly impossible to find. A CD could sell for $150 but you can get an import CD at Amazon. When I was looking for a good image of the cover, I noticed that there is a great new site totally devoted to this little-known, unsung masterpiece called Watertownology.